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Trans Woman Inmate Reaches Landmark Settlement with Minnesota Prison System

Trans Woman Inmate Reaches Landmark Settlement with Minnesota Prison System

Trans Woman Inmate Reaches Landmark Settlement with Minnesota Prison System

The settlement guarantees appropriate housing and treatment for all trans inmates in the state.

The legal team of a transgender woman incarcerated in Minnesota on Thursday announced she will be transferred to a women’s prison as part of a landmark settlement with the state’s Department of Corrections. The settlement also guarantees affirmative medical care and appropriate housing for other trans prisoners.

Christina Lusk, 57, sued the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) last year when they denied her gender-affirming medical care and housed her in a men’s prison after she pled guilty to a drug charge in 2019. Lusk came out as transgender and started hormone replacement therapy in 2008, and legally changed her name in 2018. At the time of her arrest the following year, she was consulting with doctors regarding gender-affirming surgery at the time of her arrest.

As part of its settlement, the DOC agreed to move Lusk from MCF Moose Lake, a men’s prison facility to MCF Shakopee, a women’s facility. The DOC also agreed to provide Lusk with an objective third-party medical provider to determine Lusk’s suitability for gender-affirming surgery. If deemed suitable, the DOC agreed to pay for the treatment and cover out-of-pocket expenses after her release from prison if certain conditions are met, such as obtaining health insurance. The DOC also agreed to abide by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) standards of care for other trans inmates, and contract with a WPATH certified health care provider to provide training and support.

Lusk was in represented in her suit by lawyers from Gender Justice and Robins Kaplan LLC.

“As part of settling the lawsuit and in accordance with the DOC's new transgender policy, the DOC has agreed to provide [Lusk] access to a transgender healthcare specialist to determine if gender-affirming surgery is medically necessary,” the DOC said in a statement. “The DOC will also assist her in obtaining surgery if the specialist determines it is necessary.”

The DOC also agreed to pay $495,000 to Lusk and her legal team. $245,903.72 will go to Lusk, $198,000 to Gender Justice for attorneys’ fees and costs, and $51,096.28 to Robins Kaplan LLC for costs.

Lusk called the resolution “appropriate” in a statement announcing the settlement.

“I believe we have made a big step toward allowing people to express who they truly are, and bring some sort of peace and happiness to their lives,” Lusk said. “This journey has brought extreme challenges, and I have endured so much. My hope is that nobody has to go through the same set of circumstances. I relied on my faith, and I never gave up hope. I can truly say that I am a strong, proud, transgender woman, and my name is Christina Lusk.”

“With this settlement, the Department of Corrections takes an important and necessary step toward fulfilling its responsibilities to the people in its care,” Jess Braverman, legal director for Gender Justice, said in a statement. “Thanks to Christina Lusk’s willingness to speak out, transgender people in custody will now have expanded access to the housing and health care they need, and the legal protections they deserve.”

The DOC said 48 of the roughly 8,000 inmates under its care have identified as transgender. Rebecca Bact of Robins Kaplan LLP noted the importance of the settlement to other members of the trans community currently incarcerated in the state.

“The settlement not only ensures that she [Lusk] is treated with dignity, but does the same for other trans and gender nonconforming individuals within the Minnesota DOC,” Bact said in a statement.

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