Jenniffer Spencer served a 10-year prison sentence for possession of a stolen car and a failed escape attempt that occurred when she was a teenager. While she was incarcerated in Idaho, Spencer, a transgender woman, made 75 requests for treatment for her gender identity disorder (GID), but the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) failed to provide her with any appropriate care.
Spencer attempted suicide when she learned that prison doctors would not provide any treatment and eventually removed her own genitals using a disposable razor blade, nearly bleeding to death in the process. On July 27, 2007, Judge Mikel Williams of the Federal District Court for the District of Idaho ruled that, based on extensive expert medical testimony, Spencer is entitled to receive female hormone therapy while her case is being decided. Judge Williams held that “gender identity disorder, left untreated, is a life-threatening mental health condition.” On September 7, 2007 Judge Williams denied a motion for reconsideration and again held that Spencer must receive hormone therapy. Jenniffer started receiving appropriate counseling and hormone treatment in Fall 2007. Because there are so few decisions addressing this important issue, this is a tremendous victory that may pave the way for other transgender prisoners who are being denied medically necessary care.
In July 2009, the case settled to the satisfaction of all parties. Jenniffer was released from prison in late 2009.
NCLR’s co-counsel were Sheryl Musgrove, Morrison & Foerster LLP, and the Idaho firm of Stoel Rives, LLP.