Judge Orders State to Pay for Inmate’s Sex Change

California Department of Corrections
California Department of Corrections

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco ruled that California’s corrections department must pay for an inmate’s sex change surgery, establishing a new precedent as no operation for an inmate has ever been ordered in the state.

Tigar’s decision provides Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy, 51, who calls himself Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, the chance to have the state cough up what could be as much as $100,000, according to the federal receiver who controls California prison medical care. Tigar ruled in favor of the surgery because he claimed denying it violates Norsworthy’s constitutional rights. In his ruling, he referenced an inmate who castrated himself in Texas and then underwent sex-change surgery, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

In 2011, The Los Angeles Times reported that Lyralisa Stevens, 42, an inmate in Vacaville who was born male, asked the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco to force the state to pay for her sex-change operation. The state had given her female hormones since 2003. Stevens argued that because of Stevens’ slight build, Stevens was more of a target for inmates, and that castration and transfer to a womens’ prison would serve as better protection. Stevens was serving 50 years to life for killing a woman when they argued over clothes.

The Times reported that a UC Irvine study found transgender prisoners are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other prisoners.

Richard Masbruch, who raped and tortured a Fresno woman in 1991, castrated himself, then was given female hormones by the prison system.


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