The state has settled a lawsuit filed by a transgender woman who was denied hormone treatments while serving a five-year sentence for attempted armed robbery.
The case, filed by Michelle Wright, 26, exposed a potential rift between Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Gov. Kate Brown, who has a reputation as a fierce advocate for LGBTQ rights. (Disclosure: Rosenblum is married to the co-owner of WW's parent company.)
The settlement awards $167,500 to Wright and another $100,000 in attorneys' fees. It also requires ODOC to provide the hormone treatment it previously withheld and work on refining the agency's rules for accommodating inmates with gender dysphoria.
"Although ODOC disagreed with many of the allegations in this litigation, we never disputed the basic principles that transgender individuals within our care and custody should have access to quality medical and mental health care, and that they should be treated in a respectful, inclusive manner," says Oregon Department of Corrections Director Colette Peters in a statement. "The settlement agreement in this case affirms and reinforces ODOC's commitments to these principles, and allows ODOC to move forward with these commitments without further litigation."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon represented Wright in her lawsuit and claimed the settlement as a victory for transgender inmates across the state.
"This is a huge victory for our client and all transgender prisoners in Oregon," said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon, in a statement. "For too long, Oregon prisons have been treating transgender prisoners in cruel ways and denying them the lifesaving care they need. We look forward to continuing to work with the state to ensure that prison staff are treating transgender prisoners fairly and decently."