Since the memo from federal Health and Human Services was leaked last month to the New York Times the issues affecting healthcare for transgender and gender non-conforming people (TGNC people) have been constantly featured in media outlets. What has consistently not been covered, however, are the many ways in which healthcare fails to adequately cover our TGNCI community in jail and prison.
The conditions that incarcerated and detained TGNC community face including the access – or lack of access – to healthcare are always on SRLP’s radar. At any given time SRLP represents over 50 incarcerated TGNC people with healthcare related complaints. As so many of these concerns are repetitive – stemming from poorly trained staff or out of date policies – we often ask clients and community members if we can use their stories and experiences during testimonies before city council and state legislature.
Last year, SRLP’s former Director of Outreach and Community Engagement, Juana Peralta, was invited to present a statement on healthcare in New York State facilities before a joint hearing from the Committee on Corrections and the Committee on Health in the New York State Legislature. You can read the full text of the statement here and watch their testimony here. Their testimony begins at the 1:12:17 mark.
Some of the recommendations Juana made were for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to:
- immediately seek additional mental health professionals able to provide competent Gender Dysphoria (GD) diagnosis for each local prison hub;
- provide the same level of medical care for individuals seeking a GD diagnosis as they would receive in the free world;
- create a universal policy towards Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in DOCCS facilities including a protocol that allows for people to maintain access to their medical care, regardless of their security classification or length of stay in a facility. This protocol should include access to the least-risky and most-effective HRT. TGNC-specific organizations should be called upon to review and strengthen this policy;
- train all medical staff on TGNC competency and accompany this training with refresher courses. Failure to pass the training should lead staff to being placed on probation. This training must be available to transgender-specific healthcare organizations to review, strengthen, and provide;
- review and revise Health Service Policy Memo 1.31 with input from TGNC individuals and organizations and take steps to ensure that it is being properly implemented.
Last week, I was invited to present at the New York City Council joint hearing of the Committees on Hospitals, Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction, and Criminal Justice on healthcare provided in the NYC jail system. You can read my full testimony here and watch the testimony here. My testimony begins at the 2:29:00 mark.
My prepared testimony focused on one major recommendation: for the New York Health and Hospitals Corporations’ Correctional Health Services Unit (CHS) to work with TGNC-lead organizations to revise their current policy on TGNC healthcare. While we could have said much more concerning issues of privacy, and treatment for survivors of sexual violence as well as CHS’ ability to recommend safe housing for TGNCI people and survivors of sexual violence, we were not able to remark on all of those concerns.
A year after Juana’s testimony we have seen no movement on our recommended items. We hope that CHS will be willing to move more quickly to work with SRLP and other trans-lead organizations to improve care in the city jails. You can learn more about the many campaigns that SRLP is working on here.