1st Sex Reassignment Inmate Says Women's Prison is 'Torture' - NBC Southern California
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1st Sex Reassignment Inmate Says Women's Prison is 'Torture'

Convicted killer Shiloh Heavenly Quine had the surgery she had long sought in January and was moved from a men's prison last month

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    Should health care for prison inmates include sex reassignment surgery? Jennifer Levi of GLAD joined necn to discuss. (Published Tuesday, May 5, 2015)

    The first U.S. inmate to have taxpayer-funded sex reassignment surgery says she's been mistreated since being transferred to a California women's prison, where she now has a beard and mustache because officials have denied her a razor.

    In a hand-written federal court filing, convicted killer Shiloh Heavenly Quine called her new housing at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla a "torture unit." She said she's unnecessarily isolated from other inmates and denied basic items.

    State officials say she's being treated like other female inmates. All initially are denied privileges like razors and TVs as they are evaluated.

    Quine, 57, had the surgery she had long sought in January and was moved from a men's prison last month. She said she is being treated as if she's a newly arrived inmate and denied rehabilitation programs and privileges even though she's been serving a life sentence since 1981.

    Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Quine is housed alone in a cell but said she still has no privacy to perform required intimate post-operative procedures and is enduring "a restrictive isolation" that is pushing her toward anxiety, depression and sadness.

    Her beard and mustache are having a "huge impact on day to day life" and are making the transition to life as a woman more difficult, she wrote in a filing received Friday at the court.

    The department has "no legitimate penological objective but harassment" in denying shaving access, she wrote. Quine asked the federal judge overseeing her lawsuit to order prison officials to provide electrolysis to remove her facial hair, or at least a razor.

    Corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said all female reception center inmates are routinely denied razors and televisions along with other privileges while they are evaluated. Inmates can't have razors until officials are confident they won't harm themselves or others.

    Quine said the restrictions could last a year, but Thornton said 45 days is typical and Quine is nearly finished with the process that will determine where she is permanently housed, the programs she is assigned, and whether she needs mental health or substance abuse treatment, for instance.

    "It's a very thorough process, which is why it can take a while. But it's a process every inmate goes through," Thornton said. "There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to male and female inmates."

    Quine's attorneys at the nonprofit Transgender Law Center did not respond to repeated calls and emails over two days.

    Quine was known as Rodney James Quine when she and an accomplice kidnapped and fatally shot 33-year-old Shahid Ali Baig, a father of three, in downtown Los Angeles in 1980, stealing $80 and his car during a drug- and alcohol-fueled rampage.

    Baig's daughter, Farida, tried unsuccessfully in court to block Quine's surgery. She objected to inmates getting taxpayer-funded surgery that is not readily available to non-criminals.

    "My dad begged for his life," she said in January. "It just made me dizzy and sick. I'm helping pay for his surgery; I live in California. It's kind of like a slap in the face."

    Quine had been housed in men's prisons for 36 years despite living as a woman since 2009.

    California settled her lawsuit in 2015 by agreeing to provide the surgery. The state then became the first to set standards for other transgender inmates to undergo the operation.

    Her lawsuit also led a federal magistrate to provide transgender female inmates housed in men's facilities with items such as nightgowns, scarves and necklaces, though Quine's attorneys are still sparring with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation over the details.

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