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Former Transgender Prisoner Fights for LGBTQ Rights in Massachusetts Prisons

Resto, 55, said she has lived as a woman for the past 40 years. She was arrested for a non-violent drug offense in 2016 and was sentenced to four years. Upon arriving at Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk, she stated that she was sexually harassed by prisoners and guards alike. “They would make comments on what they wanted to do to me sexually,” she said.

With the help of Prison Legal Services of Boston, Resto filed suit against the DOC asserting that she suffered from gender dysphoria and needed to be transferred to a woman’s facility. The court ruled in Resto’s favor, and she was transferred to the woman’s facility in Framingham in 2018 where she was later released in April 2019. (see: Doe v. Mass. Dep’t of Corr., Case No. 17-12255-RGS, U.S.D.C. (D. Mass.).

Since then, Resto has worked with advocacy groups and spoken to the State House to bring awareness to problems inherent with those with gender dysphoria and others of the LGBTQ community in prisons in hopes of bringing change.

The Criminal Justice Reform Act (Act) passed in 2018 addresses some of the issues specific to those problems. By the Act, guards and staff must now address prisoners by the gender they identify with, and they can be placed in housing of their gender identity even if they have not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

The Act also has created a special commission to continue reviewing prison systems and making recommendations for improvements. 


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Related legal case

Doe v. Mass. Dep’t of Corr.