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Virginia

Parole granted for Va. transgender inmate seeking sex-change surgery

Thursday, January 16, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia prison inmate who has asked a federal judge to force the state to pay for a sex-change operation has been granted parole, the chairman of the Virginia Parole Board said Thursday.

Ophelia De’Lonta remains in custody at Buckingham Correctional Center pending approval of her home plan and conditions of release, board chairman William Muse said in a telephone interview. He said that can take 45 days or longer.

Ophelia De’Lonta

Ophelia De’Lonta

Muse said he personally delivered a letter granting parole to De’Lonta on Dec. 19.

“She was excited, as most offenders are when they see they’re getting released,” Muse said.

De’Lonta has served 34 years of a 73-year sentence for robbery. The 53-year-old De’Lonta has been diagnosed with a severe form of gender identity disorder, a medically recognized illness in which people believe they were born the wrong gender.

Her desire for a sex-change operation has prompted several attempts at self-castration.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Roanoke in 2011, De’Lonta claimed that the state has failed its duty to provide adequate medical care because it won’t provide the surgery. Her lawyers have said the surgery could be done for about $20,000. The lawsuit remains active.

Muse said the possibility of a court forcing the state to pay for an inmate’s sex-change operation was not a factor in the parole decision.

“It was not part of our thinking,” he said. “We specifically did not coordinate anything with the Department of Corrections or the attorney general’s office. We wanted to keep it purely a parole call.”

Muse said De’Lonta has maintained a good record in prison the past few years. He said he does not ordinarily deliver parole letters personally, but he did so in De’Lonta’s case “just because I’ve known her a long time.”

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De’Lonta’s attorney, Alan Schoenfeld, declined to comment on his client’s parole and the effect it might have on the lawsuit.

In her lawsuit, De’Lonta claims that denying her sex-change operation violates her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

U.S. District Judge James C. Turk previously dismissed De’Lonta’s lawsuit, ruling that the state prison system was adequately treating her by providing psychological counseling and hormone treatments and allowing her to dress as a woman in a men’s prison. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last January sent the case back to Turk for reconsideration.

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26 more reader comments:

  1. this will sound mean but why should the state pay for a surgery when we know the prisoner will be just fine in jail without it you dont go to prison to get every thing handed to you

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 11:57pm
  2. It's a victory because hopefully, everyone can get this surgery if they need it, paid for by insurance or something.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:01am
  3. but tax payer dollars should not go to pay for a prisoners sex change operation

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:01am
  4. I agree with Daniel. I DO NOT want tax dollars going for this.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:03am
  5. do you know how much of your actual money goes toward her surgery? not enough for you to bitch and moan about it.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:03am
  6. still we the tax payers should not have to pay for it not a dime

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:04am
  7. Why?

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:10am
  8. better question is why should we have to pay for the surgery for someone who was a prisoner when there are others going thru the same thing who are making money paying for their own sex changes why should the ones who are working not get it for free and the ones who were or are prisoners get it for free

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:12am
  9. insurance doesn't cover cosmetic surgery unless its medically necessary in which case this is not.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:20am
  10. I agree that all trans* people should have access to all transition-related health care at no cost to them. I am asking why you say someone who is in jail/prison should not have this access.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:21am
  11. i disagree why should they have to pay it at no cost out of their pocket

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:23am
  12. I am curious your (and other's) reasoning for saying "no" to a trans* person accessing transition-related medical care while incacerated.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:23am
  13. its prison its not about getting what a person wants its about them doing time for crimes they did and in jail it would not cause a person to die if they could not get the surgery it would not physically cause them to die by deny them it or make them earn it by working

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:26am
  14. There ae so many people who need this surgery who have been law abiding and cannot afford it. Until they have access to the surgery I could not agree with inmates getting it for free. Hormones I could see, castration to get rid of testosterone I could see. In my opinion inmates should have the option of being castrated to permanantly be rid of the hormone that simply ruins male to female trans peoples lives but not free SRS. Castration/orchiectomy can be done with local anesthesia and will end the threat of further physical masculinization. An orchiectomy can be done very inexpensively.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:40am
  15. i think they should be made to do work to earn the surgery

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:41am
  16. That's a good idea Daniel Alvarado about working to pay for the surgery. I know many will not agree though. Hard to imagine why but I understand their reasoning I simply do not agree with it.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:42am
  17. I am all for people getting the types of surgery and therapies they need to deal with gender identity issues. However, I do not believe taxpayers should be paying for this type of thing for prisoners. As one person transitioning made a comment on another site, “Why should she get it free? While her and her friends have to pay out of pocket.” There are plenty of people with gender identity issues that pay for their own transitioning. Who have not committed crimes. I think it is outrageous to expect the taxpayers to pay for a prisoner to get for free what innocent people have to fight for.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:00am
  18. This is not the government’s responsibility especially when you’ve been in jail.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:07am
  19. Smh

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:09am
  20. 73 years for robbery!!! When child molesters get 3-4 years. That’s what we should be more worried about.. She’ll get out and get it herself. Government is sick of the constitution. I like how they say, “

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:16am
  21. I don’t pay taxes but I don’t believe the state shud pay for it

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:16am
  22. We specifically did not coordinate anything with the Department of Corrections or the attorney general’s office. We wanted to keep it purely a parole call.” what does that last sentence even mean hahaha “wanted to keep it”

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:18am
  23. Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for this. Simple.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:23am
  24. This is a federal case and would possibly cause tax payers nation wide to pay for sex change. As an out lesbian, I would not want anyone else to be forced to pay for invitro if I wanted to get pregnant. This is not an insurance issue. It is an issue of prisoners trying to force the system in some twisted sense of privilege. What the courts and others ok with this fail to realize is that once you are locked up, you forfeit your freedom. Until you are out can you get what you want, or in this case, need. The tax payer owes you nothing. Pay for your own reassignment surgery yourself!

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 12:40am
  25. Please explain why it says that being trans is a disorder ._.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 1:23am
  26. I have no opinion on whether he should have been released, but I do not feel we, tax payers, should pay for the surgery.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 1:28am