In a landmark decision, the Minnesota Department of Corrections has agreed to transfer transgender inmate Christina Lusk, 57 – who is currently serving a sentence until 2024 for a felony drug offense, – to a women’s prison and provide her with a vaginoplasty procedure. The settlement, amounting to $495,000, comes as a resolution to Lusk’s discrimination lawsuit against the state Department of Corrections.
This move marks the first time in Minnesota’s history that an inmate is being transferred to a different correctional facility based on their gender identity. The decision was prompted by Lusk’s grievance, which highlighted instances of sexual abuse and mistreatment she experienced while incarcerated with male inmates at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Moose Lake.
“Inmates would heckle her, heckle her roommates… call her ‘it,’ that sort of thing,” Gender Justice legal director Jess Braverman said. “And then there were staff who would say things to her, such as, ‘You know, you’re a man in a men’s prison. I’m not going to treat you like a woman. I’m not going to use your proper name and pronouns.’”
The lawsuit, filed by the St. Paul-based advocacy group Gender Justice on Lusk’s behalf, also argued that the Department of Corrections failed to accommodate Lusk’s medical needs by deferring her request for a vaginoplasty, despite her ongoing hormone therapy and previous “top surgery.”
As part of the settlement, the Minnesota Department of Corrections has committed to enhancing its policies concerning transgender inmates, ensuring a safer and more inclusive environment for individuals in their custody.
Christina Lusk expressed her satisfaction with the settlement, in a statement released by Gender Justice, calling it “appropriate.”
“Everybody needs to come together in unity, and embrace positive change. 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 stated.
“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,” Lusk continued.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections, along with 10 other states and the District of Columbia, implemented a policy earlier this year allowing for the transfer of inmates to facilities that align with their gender identity. This policy aims to address the unique needs and safety concerns faced by transgender individuals within the prison system.
With this settlement, Minnesota has signaled its commitment to upholding the rights of transgender individuals and ensuring their well-being throughout their incarceration. This groundbreaking decision sets a precedent for other states to follow suit in addressing the specific challenges faced by transgender inmates and fostering a more equitable correctional system.