News (USA)

Historic settlement moves trans woman out of men’s prison

Historic settlement moves trans woman out of men’s prison
Christina Lutz Photo: Gender Justice

In January, Minnesota joined 10 states and the District of Columbia allowing trans prisoners to be incarcerated at a facility aligning with their gender identity.

This week, the first prisoner to benefit from the new provision was granted a transfer.  

Minnesota corrections officials announced a legal agreement on Thursday that will move 58-year-old Christina Lusk from the men’s prison at Moose Lake to a women’s facility in Shakopee.

She also gets a $495,000 settlement in the bargain.

Said Lusk: “I believe we have made a big step toward allowing people to express who they truly are and bring some sort of peace and happiness to their lives.”

In 2022, the inmate sued the Minnesota Department of Corrections for placing her in a men’s prison after she was convicted on a felony drug charge in 2019.

The suit, brought by Lusk with Gender Justice, a gender equity advocacy group in St. Paul, detailed how Lusk was assigned to a men’s dormitory at Moose Lake and had to endure using the all-male bathrooms and disrobe among male inmates.

According to the suit, she was repeatedly sexually abused by inmates in her group cell.

Lusk says she was reprimanded by prison staff not only for wearing women’s clothing but for having breasts, which were augmented after she came out as trans in 2008. She was reprimanded as well for not wearing a bra while her bras were being laundered.

Lusk described male guards ogling her during searches and pat downs, “despite being approved for female searches only.”

Lusk’s settlement and transfer come on the heels of the Minnesota DOC’s new transgender policy, effective in January, which allows inmates to transfer to facilities that match their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth.

Access to transgender healthcare comes with Lusk’s settlement and the new DOC policy, as well.

“The DOC is constitutionally obligated to provide medically necessary care for incarcerated people, which includes treatment for gender dysphoria,” Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said in a statement. “Based on the facts of this specific case, the incarcerated person will now have access to the medical care she needs, she deserves and we have a legal obligation to provide.”

That provision aligns with Gov. Tim Walz’s (D) executive order signed in March protecting Minnesotans seeking gender-affirming care.

DOC spokesman Andy Skoogman told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Thursday that 48 transgender inmates are included among a total prison population of about 8,000 inmates.

Including Lusk, “We currently have six incarcerated persons who identify as transgender who have requested a transfer based on their gender identity.”

“This journey has brought extreme challenges, and I have endured so much,” Lusk said in her statement following the settlement. “My hope is that nobody has to go through the same set of circumstances.”

“I can truly say that I am a strong, proud transgender woman, and my name is Christina Lusk.”

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