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A judge gave Idaho 6 months to pay for transgender inmate’s surgery. Now it’s postponed.

Who are the inmates that make up Idaho’s prison system?

It’s no secret that Idaho’s prisons and jails are overcrowded. The Idaho Department of Correction has 7,840 total beds at its facilities statewide — but it has about 8,600 inmates. Here are the latest statistics on inmates in Idaho's prison system.
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It’s no secret that Idaho’s prisons and jails are overcrowded. The Idaho Department of Correction has 7,840 total beds at its facilities statewide — but it has about 8,600 inmates. Here are the latest statistics on inmates in Idaho's prison system.

While the debate over adding anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Idahoans has persisted for years, a court case involving a transgender Idaho inmate last year raised other questions about the rights of transgender people in Idaho.

Adree Edmo, a transgender woman who was sentenced to prison in 2012, could become the second incarcerated person in the United States — and the first incarcerated person in Idaho — to undergo gender reassignment surgery while in custody.

A federal appeals panel in late March granted Idaho’s request to postpone the surgery, the latest development in an ongoing legal battle between Edmo and the state. What happens next will be decided in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Edmo, who is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, filed a lawsuit after the Idaho Department of Correction and Corizon, a private medical care company used by the department, refused to provide Edmo with gender reassignment surgery. The state argued that the procedure was medically unnecessary, but a U.S. District Court judge ruled in December that the state must provide Edmo with the surgery within six months.

“For more than forty years, the Supreme Court has consistently held that consciously ignoring a prisoner’s serious medical needs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” the ruling said.

Edmo was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition where a person feels discomfort or distress because their gender identity does not match their biological sex, shortly after her imprisonment in 2012. Since then, she has undergone some hormone therapy treatment and attempted to castrate herself twice, according to the lawsuit.

David McClusky, a Twin Falls surgeon and chairman of the Idaho Board of Correction, disagreed with the ruling.

“If Ms. Edmo had a broken arm, we’d all agree it should be treated,” McClusky said in a statement. “But disagreement among medical professionals in this case does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.”

While the U.S. District Court ruling favored Edmo, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 20 granted a delay for the surgery after the state made a motion arguing that the procedure shouldn’t be performed until the appeals court makes its decision. The court will hear arguments in May.

California became the first state to pay for a transgender inmate’s reassignment surgery in 2015 when state officials agreed to provide the surgery to settle a lawsuit brought against them.

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