A man who identifies as a woman will move to a women’s prison and receive a nearly half-million dollar payout after a settlement with the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MDOC).
Christina Lusk, 57, was convicted of a First Degree Felony drug charge in 2019 and incarcerated in MCF Moose Lake, a medium-security men’s prison. Lusk sued MDOC in 2022, arguing that MDOC’s placement of Lusk in a men’s prison based “solely on genitalia” is unconstitutional and unenforceable. The settlement includes Lusk’s transport to Minnesota’s women-only Shakopee prison and access to “gender affirming healthcare,” NPR reported. On top of the new placement, Lusk will receive a $495,000 payout, which includes $250,000 in legal fees.
“With this settlement, the Department of Corrections takes an important and necessary step toward fulfilling its responsibilities to the people in its care,” stated Gender Justice Legal Director Jess Braverman, whose organization represented the inmate along with Robins Kaplan LLP.
In 2019, MDOC’s Transgender Committee recommended Lusk be placed at MCF Moose Lake with “shower alone” and “single cell housing” restrictions. As MPRNews reported when the lawsuit was filed, Lusk alleged that the Transgender Committee denied the inmate’s requests “without explanation.”
However, the MDOC adopted new guidelines in January 2023 regarding accommodations for trans-identifying prisoners. MDOC’s January 2023 policies require the Transgender Committee to take the inmate’s gender identity into consideration, with the inmate’s safety considered a priority.
“As part of settling the lawsuit and in accordance with the [M]DOC’s new transgender policy, the DOC has agreed to provide [Lusk] access to a transgender healthcare specialist to determine if gender-affirming surgery is medically necessary” the MDOC said in a statement. “The [M]DOC will also assist her in obtaining surgery if the specialist determines it is necessary.”
MDOC Commissioner Paul Schnell stated, “The DOC is constitutionally obligated to provide medically necessary care for incarcerated people, which includes treatment for gender dysphoria.” Schnell also claimed MDOC has a “legal obligation” to provide Lusk “the medical care she needs [and] deserves.”
“Thanks to Christina Lusk’s willingness to speak out, transgender people in custody will now have expanded access to the housing and health care they need, and the legal protections they deserve,” Braverman said.
Lusk is set for release in May 2024.
Minnesota’s policy of deciding transgender cases aligns with federal standards, which call for case-by-case determinations. Despite this, these determinations tend to lean toward housing inmates in accordance with their biological sex.