Letters to the Editor

Transgender inmate poses dilemma for prison officials

Re the Aug. 24 article, “Prison system must accommodate transgender inmate, judge orders.” This presents an interesting dilemma for prison officials. Since Reiyn Keohane was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a recognized medical condition, Florida corrections officials are required to provide treatment.

Additionally, failing to allow Reiyn to wear women’s undergarments and forcing adherence to hair length standards could exacerbate her condition, resulting in self-harming, including suicide attempts; especially given Reiyn's history.

To safeguard Reiyn’s physical and mental health, how far can existing boundaries be pushed without ultimately causing harm to her and other inmates? Once Reiyn transitions while incarcerated, how will she fare in an all male prison? What other accommodations will she request and what will be required to protect her?

An inmate’s sex is utilized to designate facility and bathroom assignments, due to a recent reversal of protections previously afforded to transgender and gay inmates. Under new rules, using an inmate’s identified gender for facility assignments, “is appropriate only in rare cases.”

Reversing previous practices resulted after a federal lawsuit was filed by several female inmates in a Texas prison, alleging that, “sharing quarters with transgender women had endangered them.”

Clearly, providing safety to transgender and other inmates is a difficult balancing endeavor requiring decision-making on a case-by-case basis. In the case of U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling, it affirms that withholding hormonal therapy and failure to facilitate Reiyn’s social transitioning constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Apparently, capital punishment — killing offenders in the name of retributive justice — does not.

Joyce Voschin,