Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Wisconsin DOC Settles Transgender Prisoner’s Lawsuit

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WDOC) has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a transgender prisoner who sought treatment for her gender identity disorder. The settlement ended seven years of litigation.

The suit was filed in federal court in 2003 by Scott Konitzer, who goes by the name of Donna Dawn Konitzer. Konitzer claimed to be a woman trapped in a man’s body. She was provided with hormones under the prison system’s standard practice to treat gender identity disorder, which caused her to develop breasts and other feminine traits. [See: PLN, Aug. 2006, p.28].

Konitzer argued that she was suffering cruel and unusual punishment by not being allowed to have surgery to complete her transition to a woman. Although prison officials provided hormone therapy, they refused Konitzer’s requests to wear female undergarments, to refer to her as a woman, and to use makeup, body hair removal products and an anti-baldness treatment.

In May 2010, in ruling on the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, U.S. District Court Judge Charles N. Clevert held that a jury could find that prison officials “were deliberately indifferent to Konitzer’s serious medical needs” by refusing her the real-life experience of living as a woman, which was the next step to treat Konitzer’s gender identity disorder. Her gender identity disorder was a formal, medical diagnosis.

The parties agreed to settle the case on September 1, 2010. The settlement provides several forms of relief to Konitzer. First, the WDOC will contract “with an outside medical specialist with expertise in endocrinology or gender identity disorder to independently evaluate” Konitzer.

Further, the WDOC will provide, on a one-time basis, state-issued brassieres and underwear consistent with that provided to female prisoners, and Konitzer will be able to purchase such items in the prison’s canteen thereafter. Hormone therapy and medical and mental health care will continue to be provided. The WDOC also agreed to ensure
Konitzer’s privacy when using the shower and toilet, and to supply a DVD for weekly speech therapy. The WDOC agreed to pay $5,000 to cover Konitzer’s debts, including some legal fees and restitution, and to provide her with a six-month treatment of Propecia to fight baldness. Subsequent Propecia treatments will be available through the canteen.

In November 2010, Konitzer moved to void the settlement on the basis that it had been coerced. Konitzer said the withdrawal of her legal team in June 2010, with a trial date set for only two weeks later, caused the coercion. WDOC spokesman Tim LeMonds said the agency considered the settlement to be a “binding contract.” The district court denied Konitzer’s motion to void the settlement, and she filed an appeal with the Seventh Circuit, which remains pending. See: Konitzer v. Bartow, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Wisc.), Case No. 2:03-cv-00717-CNC.

Additional source: Associated Press

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Konitzer v. Bartow