Under a settlement reached this week, the Minnesota Department of Corrections has agreed to transfer a biological male inmate who identifies as a woman to an all-female facility and will allow him to pursue a vaginoplasty procedure.
Left-wing legal group Gender Justice announced the settlement agreement Thursday, saying its client Christina Lusk will also receive $495,000 in monetary compensation, about half of which will go towards legal fees.
Lusk, who is in prison on drug charges, sued the Department of Corrections in June 2022, claiming he was being improperly housed in a male facility, suffering harassment from male prisoners, and being prevented from pursuing a vaginoplasty procedure.
According to the lawsuit, Lusk legally changed his name before incarceration, received a breast augmentation procedure in 2017, and was “on the verge” of scheduling a bottom surgery when he was arrested in December 2018.
DOC Medical Director James Amsterdam reviewed Lusk’s case, determining that the inmate would not be allowed to receive genital surgery but “could pursue that after release,” per the lawsuit.
The settlement reached this week states that the DOC will refer Lusk to a “mutually agreed-to third-party medical professional to evaluate her readiness for vaginoplasty.”
“In the event vaginoplasty and/or breast revision is part of this professional’s plan but is not completed prior to Plaintiff’s release from her current period of incarceration, DOC will reimburse Plaintiff for her out-of-pocket expenses associated with that procedure(s),” the settlement says.
The DOC confirmed in a press release that it will assist Lusk “in obtaining surgery if the specialist determines it is necessary.”
The DOC has also agreed to refer to Lusk and all transgender inmates by their preferred names and pronouns, transfer Lusk to the women’s prison in Shakopee, and update several of its policies.
“Our resolution to this case was appropriate,” said Lusk, who is scheduled to be released in May 2024.
“Everybody needs to come together in unity, and embrace positive change. 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. This journey has brought extreme challenges, and I have endured so much. My hope is that nobody has to go through the same set of circumstances. I relied on my faith, and I never gave up hope. I can truly say that I am a strong, proud, transgender woman, and my name is Christina Lusk,” he added.
The DOC said this is the first time it has ever transferred a male to a female facility and will continue to grant transgender inmates’ transfer requests “unless the requested placement would pose a heightened risk of physical or sexual harm to that person or those housed in the preferred facility.”
“The DOC is constitutionally obligated to provide medically necessary care for incarcerated people, which includes treatment for gender dysphoria,” said DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell. “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.”
The DOC also plans to establish “Gender Identity Committees” at each prison to review and address requests, including single cell assignments, showering arrangements, and search protocols.
There are 48 transgender people in Minnesota’s prison population of about 8,000.