If an inmate is suffering from depression to the point of suicide, psychiatric care would be in order.  If the subject was depressed about a life sentence, we wouldn’t accept the premise from a federal judge that incarceration is the problem causing the medical issue, cruel and unusual, and therefore we need to release the defendant to ensure that he does not suffer from a serious life-threatening medical need.  If the guilt and regret he suffers from his murderous actions results in a disorder where he feels he needs to have the offending hands amputated, we wouldn’t accept that either.  However, if the defendant requires electrolysis and implants to feel good about himself mentally, we should acquiesce.  Not sure how or why it would be determined that helping an inmate change his gender identity truly addresses a life threating situation, but it apparently does in Massachusetts.  In fact, it does to the point that a federal judge has determined that Massachusetts taxpayers have to fork over the money for gender reassignment surgery for a convicted murderer, as he feels that it’s “unusual” to treat a prisoner with gender identity disorder differently “than the numerous inmates suffering from more familiar forms of mental illness.”  Make me a woman or I’ll kill myself.

cruel and unusual...

cruel and unusual…

One can’t argue against this without the usual hate and diatribes about how closed minded, bigoted and discriminatory we are.  But this does not address the simple point that we as taxpayers have no obligation to pay to remove the genitalia of a convicted murderer just because he’s incarcerated for his crimes and threatening suicide if we don’t.  How a federal judge came to this conclusion illustrates just how screwed up we are when it comes to crime and punishment.  Why are we on the hook?

Robert Kosilek had ample time before he strangled his wife in 1990 with a cord and left her body in the back of a car at a Massachusetts mall.  He has been suffering from gender identity disorder since he was 3 and had been taking female hormones at the age of 16.  He’s had many opportunities to change gender in his life and he chose not to.  He also had the choice to murder his wife and decided that would be a good thing.  Now he dresses as a woman in the all male prison, has legally changed his name to Michelle and claims that the corrections department is violating his constitutional rights and subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment by denying him the treatment he feels he “deserves.”  He says that as a result of being denied treatment, he suffers constant depression, anxiety and a high level of stress.  Of course, no other prisoners incarcerated for life suffer these life-threatening issues; just Michelle.  Apparently that’s what Federal Judge Mark Wolf feels.

It is not cruel and unusual to be punished for one’s crimes.  Incarceration means punishment, means loss of choices.  Will he die without the surgery?  Only if he kills himself.  As sympathetic a portrait as we want to paint for this man and his suffering, he made choices that put him where he is today.

So maybe I’m the Neanderthal here.  I still feel that gender reassignment surgery does not fix anything, does not cure an individual.  It just addresses a symptom and makes us all feel good.  I’m sure I’ll get all sorts of links and blogs pointing to people whose lives were saved by this type of surgery, that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.  Could very well be.  But I doubt I’ll be convinced that Massachusetts should be paying for specialists from around the country to fly in to reassign Robert to Michelle.  He’s paying for the choices he made.  And just like the others in the general prison population around him, he’s suffering the consequences of those choices.  What cures will we offer them and at what cost?