One Small Step for Wisconsin, One Giant Leap Backwards for the Remaining Transgender Inmates

Document Type


Publication Date



Prisons with policies that allow them to refuse to treat inmates suffering from gender dysphoria arguably violate the inmates’ Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment and discrimination. Examples of cruel and unusual punishment include prison officials’ failure to continue cancer treatment for inmates, deciding to offer cheaper and less effective treatments, and refusing medical treatment altogether to inmates with medical needs.

To keep taxpayers from paying for sex reassignment surgeries for inmates with gender dysphoria, Wisconsin passed the Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act. The act prevented prisoners with gender dysphoria from receiving certain medical treat- ment, up to and including sex reassignment surgeries. Three Wisconsin inmates sued, stating that the act was unconstitutional. The federal district court agreed with the inmates. Wisconsin appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which also decided that the act was unconstitutional.

Federal courts across the nation disagree about how to treat cases regarding in- mates diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Usually, when federal courts (which are re- gional) are in disagreement, also called a “split in authority,” the United States Su- preme Court (which all courts must follow) will hear a case to decide the issue once and for all, resolving the split. However, when Wisconsin petitioned to be heard by the United States Supreme Court, the court refused. The Supreme Court passed on Spring 2017, Volume VII 1110 LGBTQ Policy Journal a perfect opportunity to resolve the split in authority and decree that no state shall withhold transgender treatment to prisoners pursuant to the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Publication Title

LBGTQ Policy Journal

First Page


Last Page



This record does not contain full text. If available, click on the "DOI" link to see where the full text of the item is located. If you are a UB student, or faculty or staff member and unable to access the full text at the link, try searching for the item in Everything Search (https://search.lib.buffalo.edu/discovery/search?vid=01SUNY_BUF:everything). If not available, request via Delivery+ (https://library.buffalo.edu/delivery/).

This document is currently not available here.