Case: DOJ Investigation of Utah Department of Corrections

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Case Summary

On March 12, 2024, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had completed an investigation of the Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC) and found that UDOC had violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against an incarcerated transgender woman on the basis of her disability, gender dysphoria. The DOJ opened its investigation into UDOC in response to a complaint from an incarcerated transgender woman (“the complainant”). The complaina…

On March 12, 2024, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had completed an investigation of the Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC) and found that UDOC had violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against an incarcerated transgender woman on the basis of her disability, gender dysphoria.

The DOJ opened its investigation into UDOC in response to a complaint from an incarcerated transgender woman (“the complainant”). The complainant alleged that UDOC discriminated against her because of her disability, gender dysphoria, by denying her equal access to medical care. After twenty-two months of repeated delays and denials of her requests for disability-related care and reasonable modifications, the complainant performed surgery on herself to remove her testicles. Additionally, the complainant alleged that UDOC repeatedly denied her access to hormone therapy and that once UDOC did offer her hormone therapy it failed to ensure the treatment was provided safely and effectively. The complainant also alleged that UDOC denied her requests for reasonable modifications to its policies, practices, and procedures to allow her to access gender-affirming commissary items such as clothing and makeup, same-gender physical and visual searches, and female housing.

Title II of the ADA requires that no qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity. Based on its investigation, the DOJ determined that UDOC had (1) denied the complainant equal access to healthcare services; (2) imposed unnecessary eligibility criteria for assessment and treatment for gender dysphoria that UDOC did not require for other conditions; and (3) failed to reasonably modify its policies, practices, or procedures where necessary to avoid discriminating against the complainant. The DOJ concluded that UDOC’s unlawful actions were rooted in bias against individuals who are transgender.

In its March 2024 findings letter to the executive director of UDOC and an assistant attorney general for the State of Utah, the DOJ instructed UDOC to implement corrective measure to: (1) ensure its policies, practices, and procedures provide individuals with gender dysphoria an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from UDOC services, programs, and activities; (2) train UDOC employees on the requirements of Title II of the ADA and designate employees to ensure each UDOC facility’s compliance with Title II; (3) provide access to facilities, files, and status reports detailing UDOC’s actions taken to comply with the DOJ’s instructions; and (4) pay compensatory damages to the complainant and provide otherwise appropriate relief.

It noted that it hoped to collaborate to develop a court enforceable consent decree but that if agreement could not be reached, it might initiate a lawsuit. This matter is ongoing.

Summary Authors

Alex DiLalla (3/19/2024)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Resources

Docket

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Utah

Case Type(s):

Disability Rights

Prison Conditions

Special Collection(s):

Transgender Healthcare Access Cases

Key Dates

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Utah Department of Corrections, State

Facility Type(s):

Government-run

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.

Available Documents:

Findings Letter/Report

Outcome

Prevailing Party: None Yet / None

Nature of Relief:

None yet

Source of Relief:

None yet

Content of Injunction:

Reasonable Accommodation

Discrimination Prohibition

Issues

General/Misc.:

Conditions of confinement

Neglect by staff

Pattern or Practice

Disability and Disability Rights:

Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable Modifications

Discrimination Basis:

Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)

Gender identity

Affected Sex/Gender(s):

Female

Transgender

LGBTQ+:

LGBTQ+

Medical/Mental Health Care:

Medical care, general

Self-injurious behaviors