EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — An inmate from Evansville is at the center of a case that supporters say is necessary to protect transgender prisoners’ Constitutional rights.
“Indiana has passed a statute that prohibits prisoners within the department of corrections from receiving gender-affirming surgery,” says Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of transgender inmate Autumn Cordellione, who is serving a sentence for murder at the all-male Branchville Correctional Facility.
Cordellione was formerly known as Jonathan Richardson. While living as male, Richardson was sentenced to 55 years in prison for a 2001 murder in Evansville. The ACLU says the state’s decision to deny Cordellione’s surgery is a constitutional violation.
“So we are alleging this violates the Eighth Amendment, and it also violates (the) Equal Protection (Clause) because non-transgender prisoners are able to get necessary surgeries,” says Falk.
Court documents filed say that in 2020, Cordellione was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and was prescribed estrogen and testosterone blockers. Her lawyers say her continued anxiety and depression make the gender affirmation surgery a medical necessity.
“This is necessary medical treatment, and we will demonstrate that; other courts have recognized that. Regardless of one’s feelings about whether to provide it or not, the Eighth Amendment requires that the state provide certain medical care for its prisoners,” says Falk.
The Indiana Department of Corrections has not filed an official response in federal court. However, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita responded in a statement.
“This is not necessary medical treatment – it is an atrocity. This should be common sense, which is something the ACLU continuously ignores. We will not back down and will continue to back the rule of law,” says Rokita.
A date for when the lawsuit might be heard has not been set.