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Sarah Armstrong, sarmstrong@aclu-or.org

January 23, 2018

Advocates applauds the move for woman’s safety and well-being

WILSONVILLE, Ore. - American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) client, Michalle Wright, a 27-year-old transgender woman who successfully sued the state for appropriate medical care while in prison, has been moved from a male prison to the women’s prison at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility.

The settlement in Wright v. Peters, announced last year, fundamentally changed how the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) treats transgender and gender nonconforming prisoners through policy changes that provide access to doctors with experience treating transgender people, competent mental health treatment, hormone therapy, and, if medically necessary, gender confirmation surgery. ODOC also agreed to work with Basic Rights Oregon and the ACLU of Oregon to ensure that their policies and training continue to align with the standards of care for transgender people.

Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon, had this comment:

“We are very pleased that Oregon Department of Corrections is taking this important step toward ensuring Michalle’s safety and well-being.

The law requires that Oregon make individual assessments considering each person’s needs including where a person feels safe and comfortable. Placing women who are transgender in men's facilities against their will is dangerous and unacceptable. A person’s sense of where they are most safe must be considered in housing decisions.

The courts have long recognized the particular vulnerability of transgender people in prison. Transgender women in men's facilities are at great risk for sexual victimization by other inmates and even the prison staff who are supposed to protect them. We are relieved that some action was taken to protect our client from a known and foreseeable threat.”

Amy Herzfeld-Copple, co-executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, said:

“We are grateful that Oregon Department of Corrections is making improvements to safety and health of transgender people in Oregon’s prisons and applaud new management protocol to provide appropriate care.

Transgender and gender nonconforming people, particularly transgender women of color, are disproportionately caught in our criminal justice system due to high levels of poverty, lack of access to health care, societal rejection and outright discrimination.”

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