Doe v. Massachusetts Department of Correction
Update: On March 5, Judge Richard G. Stearns issued an order granting in part our client, Jane Doe’s motion for preliminary injunction. The order, which demonstrates a clear understanding on the part of the court of the brutalization faced by our client, a transgender woman, as she is housed in a men’s prison, instructs DOC to provide nearly all of the accommodations she sought as preliminary relief while housed at MCI Norfolk, including utilizing female correctional officers whenever feasible when conducting strip searches of Ms. Doe.
On February 28, 2018, GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi argued in federal district court in Boston on behalf of our client, a transgender woman who is experiencing devastating daily harassment and mistreatment because she is incorrectly housed in a men’s facility. The argument supported our client’s request for emergency relief, including transfer to Massachusetts Department of Correction’s female corrections facility, MCI-Framingham.
In seeking relief and proper treatment for our client, the case challenges the discriminatory historical exclusion of transgender people from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A group of disability rights, health and mental health law, and transgender rights organizations submitted a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Ms. Doe’s right to bring a claim under the ADA.
The brief, filed by Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Health Law Advocates, Inc., Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, and National Center for Transgender Equality, argues that to read the statute as excluding coverage for transgender people with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria (such as Ms. Doe) would be impermissible discrimination that undermines the very purpose of the law – which is to protect people from discrimination stemming from prejudice, ignorance, and stigma associated with certain health conditions.
In addition to GLAD, Ms. Doe is represented by Prisoner Legal Services and Goodwin Procter LLP.
GLAD and our partners filed the initial complaint November 15, 2017, on behalf of Ms. Doe, a transgender woman currently incarcerated at Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Norfolk, a state facility that houses male inmates. Ms. Doe’s request for emergency relief was filed February 2, 2018.
Ms. Doe is currently serving a sentence of three to four years for a non-violent drug offense. She is a woman. She was diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria and underwent gender transition nearly forty years ago, as a teenager. She has a female gender identity, and identifies and lives as a woman.
MA DOC has incorrectly housed her in a male facility. She is regularly subjected to strip searches by male correctional officers, who routinely grope her breasts in the process. She is forced to shower in view of male prisoners who inappropriately comment on her body and otherwise harass her. Correctional officers and other staff at the facility refuse to address or refer to her using her correct name and female pronouns.
The impact of this discriminatory treatment on Ms. Doe is scarring, humiliating, and both physically and emotionally harmful.
The complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts requests that Ms. Doe be appropriately transferred to DOC’s female corrections facility, MCI-Framingham, and that in the interim:
- she be searched only by female correctional officers;
- she be provided with a separate shower time without the presence of men;
- she be referred to by the correct name and female pronouns