Generally, prison is a place where one is deprived of certain personal freedoms. Yet, in Massachusetts inmates seem to retain their rights after incarceration.

Michelle Kosilek, born as Robert Kosilek, is serving a life sentence without parole for murdering his wife in 1990.  Kosilek lives as a female in an all-male prison.  However, he apparently has Gender Identity Disorder and has filed suit a number of times in the past 12 years to allow the prison to give him a sex change operation.  According to U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf, Kosilek has tried to castrate himself and also attempted to kill himself twice because he is so unhappy with his situation.  Is this merely a psychological issue that warrants an elective surgery or is it a severe condition that constitutes a medically necessary surgery?  Well, Wolf seems to think his “Gender Identity Disorder” warrants a medically necessary surgery and he is the first federal judge to order prison officials to provide the surgery for a transgender inmate.

The Department of Correction’s (DOC) argument against the surgery was that allowing the surgery would make Kosilek a target for sexual assault.  Kosilek would be a “female” inmate housed in an all-male prison.  However, in his ruling, Wolf explained that the security concerns could be adequately handled. His argument was that the DOC would have to make “good faith, reasonable decisions concerning security if the surgery genuinely creates or increases any risk to Kosilek.”  Why does the DOC suffer the additional burden to ensure an inmate’s safety, when his safety is jeopardized by his own actions?

Should Inmate Be Entitled to Sex Change Surgery?

It is my understanding that medically necessary surgeries are paid for by the taxpayers.  This is not the case with elective surgeries.  Kosilek has lived as a man in prison since 1992 and should stay there as a man until the day he dies, as his sentence for murder requires.  Mr. Kosilek was convicted of murder and sits in prison today as a punishment. What’s next? Should Massachusetts taxpayers foot the bill for prisoner’s nose jobs, face-lifts, and breast augmentations?

As I do not practice medicine, I do not know what a “medically necessary” surgery entails.  However, I do not think Mr. Kosilek’s situation rises to a level of a medical necessity to justify the additional burden placed on taxpayers and the DOC.

Do prisons have an obligation to provide sex change surgeries to inmates?  Is a sex change surgery medically necessary?  Should taxpayers be responsible for paying for an inmate’s sex change?

Do you think this ruling will be appealed?