Robert Kosilek has been serving a life sentence since the early 1990’s after being convicted of murdering his wife Cheryl. While in incarceration in an all-male prison, Kosilek decided to become a woman, and began going by the name “Michelle.” He also received hormone treatments, so that he would start to feel more feminine.
Kosilek first sued the Massachusetts Department of Corrections in 2000, but the court only declared that the man had gender identity disorder, and would not go so far as to grant him a sex change operation. He sued again in 2005 after he stated that the hormones he was taking were not enough.
According to court documents, Kosilek “attempt[ed] to castrate himself and attempt[ed] twice to kill himself while incarcerated.”
U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf, nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1985 and confirmed by a Republican majority, ordered this month that the state must pay for Kosilek’s operation. Wolf outlined that taxpayers should foot the bill for the $20,000 surgery, because denial of the operation would equate to a violation of the 8th Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
“[Kosilek is] a man who truly believes that he is a female cruelly trapped in a male body,” Wolf wrote in the 126-page decision. “This belief has caused Kosilek to suffer intense mental anguish.”
“[S]urgery is the only adequate treatment,” he continued. “[T]here is no less intrusive means to correct the prolonged violation of Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care.”
The state Department of Corrections had argued that proceeding with the operation might cause security problems in the prison, but Wolf opined that their worries were “either pretextual or can be dealt with by the DOC.” He stated that the department has the freedom to move Kosilek wherever they wish following the operation.
“The law has always been in our favor, and we thought once the law was applied to the facts, the judge really only could reach one conclusion,” remarked Kosilek’s lawyer Joseph Sulman.
However, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections disagrees and says that they are considering appealing the ruling.
“We are reviewing the decision and exploring our appellate options,” stated Dianne Wiffin, spokesperson for the Department.
The ruling is the first in its kind in American history, and came down out of the historic city of Boston, which was founded in 1630 by the Puritans, who sought to purify the land of anything that was contrary to the law of God.