TALLAHASSEE – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has filed a lawsuit challenging the Florida Department of Corrections’ (DOC) denial of hormone therapy and other medically necessary treatments for a transgender woman currently serving time in a state men’s prison.
The lawsuit was filed Aug. 15 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on behalf of Reiyn Keohane, who is incarcerated at the Everglades Correctional Institution.
Keohane has been living as female since age 14. At age 17, Keohane had her name legally changed from a traditionally male name and at age 19, began hormone therapy under the care of an endocrinologist.
“Prior to her incarceration, Reiyn was living as a woman and receiving hormone therapy prescribed to her by her doctor,” Daniel Tilley, staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida, told the Florida Record. “Although receiving this care is medically necessary, the DOC refuses to continue that care in prison, even though DOC officials know that it causes her serious harm not to receive it.”
While awaiting trial for an attempted murder charge in 2013, the ACLU said Keohane was denied the ability to continue her hormone therapy by the Lee County Jail. The ACLU said Keohane accepted a plea deal for the charge in 2014 with the understanding that she would be allowed to return to her hormone therapy after being transferred to DOC custody. However, the ACLU said she has been repeatedly denied this treatment since her transfer.
The ACLU said Keohane repeatedly made clear to DOC officials that she needed to continue her treatment for her gender dysphoria, which included both hormone therapy and the ability to groom and dress consistent with her female gender identity. The ACLU alleged that not only was Keohane denied restoration of the hormone therapy, but she has also had female clothing items confiscated.
According to an ACLU news release, the DOC has relied on a policy that explicitly targets transgender people and forbids any treatment that transgender inmates were not receiving before their incarceration. The ACLU said Keohane was receiving hormone therapy before her incarceration, but the DOC allegedly denied treatment on the grounds that since the Lee County Jail had denied her treatment, she had not actually been receiving the therapy at the time she was ultimately transferred to DOC custody.
The lawsuit asks the court to find that the DOC’s denial of treatment for Keohane’s gender dysphoria is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The ACLU and law firm DLA Piper also asked the court for a preliminary injunction ordering the DOC to provide Keohane her medically necessary treatments before a final ruling, as well as to stop enforcing the DOC policy preventing transgender inmates from receiving any treatment that they were not receiving before entering DOC custody.
“I am not aware of a single instance in which the DOC has provided hormone therapy to a transgender inmate,” Tilley said.
As of Aug. 24, the DOC had not yet entered an appearance in the case, Tilley said.
“The DOC has a long history of ignoring the serious medical needs of its inmates, and many inmates have died in state custody as a result of the DOC’s deliberate indifference to those in its care,” Tilley said. “Reiyn should not be added to that list. She has been fighting for over two years to receive the care that she desperately needs.”
Tilley said the ACLU and others sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice in October 2015 asking for an investigation into deaths by DOC inmates. The letter said there were reportedly 200 state prison deaths under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.