A transgender woman and former inmate who was held in solitary confinement for six years is suing the Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) for what is described as its “unconstitutional and discriminatory policy against people living with HIV.”
The plaintiff, identified only as Jane Roe, claims in the lawsuit filed last week she was held in solitary confinement between 2015 and 2021 at the Jefferson City Correctional Center (JCCC) because she was living with HIV. She is represented by Lambda Legal, the MacArthur Justice Center, and the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon
“No person should be subjected to the inhumane and devastating effects of long-term solitary confinement, conditions that Ms. Roe faced every day for more than six years,” Richard Saenz, Lambda Legal senior attorney, criminal justice and police misconduct strategist, said in a statement. “We filed this lawsuit to hold the Missouri Department of Corrections accountable for its use of an unconstitutional and discriminatory policy that singles out people living with HIV.”
“Ms. Roe was trapped in isolation with no way to challenge her conditions,” MacArthur Justice Center attorney, Shubra Ohri, said. “Six years of that led Ms. Roe to self-harm, suicidal ideation, and actual suicide attempts. This tracks with widespread consensus among the human rights experts, psychologists, physicians, and mental health authorities who say solitary confinement is torturous and should be abolished.”
“We seek justice for our client who endured six years of unwarranted solitary confinement. We will work to prevent this from ever happening to another human being,” Gregory Woo, a Shook partner, said in a statement.
The lawsuit, Roe v. Precythe, et. al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, and claims “MODOC’s policy on incarcerated people living with HIV lacks any consideration of modern medicine and does not engage in individualized assessments.”
The lawsuit alleges that MODOC’s policies and actions violated Roe’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Roe claimed she was denied the services, programs, and activities offered to other inmates because of her HIV status. Roe is seeking policy changes by MOCOD, monetary damages, and other unspecified relief.
If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678.