Sex Change Outrage: Should We Pay for Convict’s Operation?

by Bill Brenner on September 18, 2012

There are a lot of good people out there who deal with brutal medical situations that make them outcasts. There’s the depression I’ve covered extensively here. And there are things like being transgender. But if you’re behind bars for murder, should taxpayers be paying for your treatment?

Mood music:


Depression is a simpler example. If antidepressants can make a convict well enough to better serve the prison community where he or she is doing time, I’m for it. Maybe their crimes were so bad they should never get out. But if taxpayer-funded treatment means they can become well enough to counsel inmates who aren’t there for life, it’s a win in my book. At the least, it’s better to put them to work keeping the prison running than to let them take up space as useless blobs.

When the convict is transgender and wants a sex change, the picture gets a lot muddier. Take the case of Michelle Kosilek, a convicted murderer formerly known as Robert Kosilek.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf recently ordered state prison officials to provide Kosilek — serving a life sentence for killing his wife in 1990 — with a taxpayer-funded sex change. Wolf ruled that surgery is the “only adequate treatment” for Kosilek’s “serious medical need.” In his 126-page ruling, the judge said, “The court finds that there is no less intrusive means to correct the prolonged violation of Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care.”

Check out for more details on the case.

I’ve seen a lot of outrage over this in the usual online places (Facebook, etc.). At first, I was a little outraged. This guy made a choice to receive the hormonal treatments that have helped him become a transgender being. Should we taxpayers be paying for his personal choice to become a woman?

Like depression, being a transgender can debilitate the inmate, which means he’s not doing what we tend to picture prisoners doing, such as making license plates and mopping floors. Wouldn’t it be better to “cure” Kosilek and put him (or her) to work?

I’m having trouble seeing how this medical problem was beyond Kosilek’s control. He chose to become a woman. But the more I think about it, the more I remember that many medical conditions are the result of the choices we make. Many heart conditions started with the sufferer choosing to eat junk and smoke. If you have something like Hepatitis C, there’s a decent chance it came from the dirty needle you chose to stick in your arm.

Kosilek chose to become a woman and got hormonal treatments. Now he’s trapped between two sexes, an outcast. Of course, he became an outcast the day he decided to murder his wife.

In the final analysis, society has a choice to make.

Either we accept that the prison system runs on taxpayer dollars and, as such, inmates must receive free treatment for whatever ails them, or we decide prisoners really should rot to death in their cells.

I lean toward the first scenario. People end up in prison for many reasons. Some are rehabilitated and go on to rejoin and contribute to the good of society. Some will never get out but are too mentally gone to know right from wrong.

But the bigger issue is that American justice is supposed to be rooted in compassion. If someone murders another person, we can deny the murderer freedom for life. But as a compassionate society, we should also take care of them when they have medical problems, even if the problem sprung from bad choices.

Maybe it’s not fair. But doing the right thing isn’t always a matter of fairness.

pixel.gif (1×1) Kosilek

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Lawrence September 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm

BOSTON (AP) — A convicted murderer in Massachusetts who won the right to get a state-funded sex change is also eligible to have legal fees — expected to top $500,000 — paid as well, a federal judge ruled.

In a landmark decision, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf earlier this month ordered the state Department of Correction to provide sex-reassignment surgery to Michelle Kosilek. Wolf found that prison officials had violated Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the surgery is the ‘‘only adequate treatment’’ for Kosilek’s gender-identity disorder.

Wolf has now found that Kosilek is also entitled to legal fees.

I am compassionate and gay (Independent) but this is over the top.

Randy Abrams September 18, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Americans are paying for Todd Akin, who believes that a raped woman can prevent becoming pregnant, to be on the house science and technology committee? The inmate sex change is a red herring, a diversion. Akin is doing worse than stealing from Americans by being on the science and technology committee, he’s harming America. Obviously his party back him because he is still there and they think this is good for promoting science and technology.

Lisa September 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I’m all for compassion but this is over the top. This surgery is elective. The inmate won’t die without it. This isn’t cruel punishment. The inmate is apparently allowed to take the necessary hormones and it appears the therapist address and treat the inmate as a woman, so they’re not “forcing” her to be a man or disregarding her choice of gender. That sounds very compassionate to me and very understanding towards transgender people. There is no cruelty here. What’s cruel is that someone who strangled their wife is being made into a victim whereas that woman is dead and in the ground.

DLS September 29, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Only in America can we be awarded for committing such a heinous. This is smack in the face of justice. I wonder how the family of his late wife feels about this. What of the man who has done everything right and worked all of his life and comes down with a catastrophic illness and loses his life savings and 401k plan fighting the illness? What is the mental health board doing classifying this as an illness? Pardon me while I have an explosive anger disorder moment.
U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf: really Mark really? An appointed position no doubt. No wonder many countries refuse to respect anymore. Why not just let him out. Murder: I bet he won’t do that again.
Let the flood gates open and may every prisioner who feels this way line up for their benefits. Mark, your mother must be so proud!

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