ASSOCIATED PRESS

A group of prisoners that rarely sees victories in courts has seen a number of historic wins in the last week.

The Justice Department on Friday declared denying hormone therapy to a trans inmate being held in a Georgia prison a violation of her constitutional rights. That same a week a federal judge in California ruled the state must provide gender-affirming surgery to a trans prisoner being held in a men’s prison.

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The Justice Department is backing a lawsuit filed by Ashley Diamond, a trans prisoner who claims Georgia prison officials terminated her female hormone therapy when she entered prison. In a “statement of interest” filed in Diamond’s case, the Justice Department noted denying “appropriate medical care” for inmates with gender dysphoria violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.”

Excerpt from the Justice Department's Statement of Interest filed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

This is believed to be the first time that the Justice Department has commented on whether hormone therapy for transgender inmates is necessary medical care that states are required to provide, The New York Times reported. In the past week, the Times published two front page stories profiling Diamond and the Justice Department’s statement of interest.

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Across the country a federal judge in California ordered the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to provide adequate medical care, including gender-affirming surgery, to Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, a transgender woman being held in a men’s prison.

Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, 51, is housed at Mule Creek State Prison near Sacramento. (Transgender Law Center)

The judge concluded that the prison appeared to have made its decision based on “a blanket policy barring SRS [sex reassignment surgery] as a treatment for transgender inmates.”

U.S. immigration authorities claim they have one of the largest populations of trans women behind bars in the world. They have received similar complaints of trans detainees being denied or experiencing delays receiving hormone therapy.

“Last week’s historic events are important not only for Michelle Norsworthy, Ashley Diamond, and people in prison, but for all transgender people who have been denied the health care they need,”  Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center, who represented the California prisoner, told Fusion.

“The court and the Department of Justice have affirmed that medical decisions should be based on conversations between a patient and their doctor, not the bias of an institution, and confirmed that it’s unlawful to deny essential health care to transgender people,” Hayashi said.