Transgender California inmate who won reassignment surgery to be paroled

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 07, 2015 10:45 PM

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - A transgender California prison inmate will be paroled soon, rendering moot a controversial court order requiring the state to pay for gender reassignment surgery, state prison officials said late Friday.

Michelle Lael-Norsworthy, for whom the state was ordered earlier this year to provide the surgery, will be released within about a week, a spokesman for the state said.

Separately on Friday the state reached a settlement with another transgender woman inmate, Shiloh Quine, agreeing to provider her surgery and transfer her to a women's prison.

Under the terms of that settlement, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, the state agreed to allow inmates who are transgender or have gender dysphoria access to clothing, toiletries and other items consistent with their gender identities.

"We could not be more thrilled," said Ilona Turner, legal director of the Transgender Law Center in Oakland, which represented both inmates.

The legal center agreed that the state would no longer have to pay for surgery for Norsworthy but said that the settlement in the Quine case was historic.

"It is both incredible for our client, Shiloh, who will finally get the medical care she desperately needs, and for all transgender people throughout the California prison system," Turner said.

Jeffrey Callison, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said that had every doctor and mental health professional who examined Quine, including two independent experts, said that she needed the gender reassignment surgery.

Quine, 56, who was born Rodney James Quine, is serving a term of life without the possibility of parole after convictions in 1981 for first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery, Callison said.

Norsworthy, 51, still listed in the state's inmate finder database as Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy, was convicted of second-degree murder for killing an acquaintance during a bar fight, according to Turner, and sentenced to 17 years to life in prison.

(Editing by Ken Wills)