Federal inmate alleges denial of trans-related medical care
by Timothy Cwiek
Feb 14, 2013 | 1200 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sabrina Jackson, a transgender inmate at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, says authorities are unfairly denying her access to hormone-replacement therapy.

In a recent interview, Jackson, 27, said she received the therapy at Mazzoni Center prior to her July 2010 incarceration for unarmed bank robbery.

Since her incarceration, authorities have prevented her from continuing the therapy, she said.

In July 2012, the U.S. Marshals Service transported her to Mazzoni, ostensibly so she could continue the hormone therapy, she said.

Upon arriving at Mazzoni, Jackson was told her medical appointment was “postponed.” Then, the United States Marshal Service took the position that there would be no more rides to Mazzoni, she said.

At the time of the ride, Jackson was a pre-trial detainee and technically in the custody of the USMS.

But for the past 31 months, she has been incarcerated at the detention center, which is operated by the federal Bureau of Prisons.

The BOP has a policy allowing transgender inmates in its custody to access hormone therapy when authorized by a medical professional.

Apparently, the USMS doesn’t have a similar policy.

Dave Oney, a spokesperson for the USMS, said he didn’t know if the service had a policy relating to transgender inmates.

“I’m checking with our Prisoner Operations Division to see what policies are in place to address these types of issues,” Oney said in an email. “I hope to have some answers for you shortly.”

However, no answers were forthcoming at press time.

Jackson questioned whether the ride to Mazzoni was given in good faith, noting that she heard one marshal tell another: “[Jackson] has got to be crazy. He can do that shit when he gets out. We’re not taking him.”

After the incident, BOP officials allegedly told Jackson they lacked the authority to resolve the dispute, because they couldn’t tell the marshals what to do.

Cynthia A. Smith, a spokesperson for the detention center, had no comment when asked if Jackson’s ride to Mazzoni was a ruse to enable the USMS to assert control over the matter.

Smith also had no comment on whether detention-center officials unfairly excluded Jackson from the benefits of BOP’s transgender-friendly policy by shifting responsibility to the USMS.

Jackson said she still hasn’t had any hormone therapy — even after her Jan. 7 sentencing, when the BOP clearly began to have custody over her.

She said detention-center officials view her as a “headache,” and she expects to be transferred to another federal facility shortly.

She doesn’t know where she’ll be sent, but expressed hope that the next facility will grant her access to hormone therapy.

Her projected release date is Aug. 5, if she doesn’t commit any infractions while incarcerated.

She hopes to eventually undergo gender-reassignment surgery, she added.

Jackson also expressed a desire to pursue LGBT social-justice issues after she’s released.

According to court records, Jackson has agreed to pay about $300 in restitution to the Sovereign Bank on Haddon Avenue in Westmont, N.J.

She robbed that bank on July 9, 2010, and was arrested a few blocks away.

David M. Rosenblum, legal director of Mazzoni, couldn’t comment on the specifics of Jackson’s case.

But he said Mazzoni strives to accommodate everyone’s needs, including those who are incarcerated.

“Mazzoni Center believes that everyone is entitled to good health care,” Rosenblum said. “Our practice about people being escorted via law enforcement is to make all necessary arrangements to assure safety for both staff and the escorted individual. We have had such circumstances in the past and have accommodated the individuals. Because we are bound by [federal privacy laws], I cannot confirm or deny that [Jackson] was ever a patient at Mazzoni Center.”

In another matter, Jackson said she was allegedly raped at the detention center on April 2, 2012, by inmate James Miller.

To the best of Jackson’s knowledge, Miller hasn’t been prosecuted.

Smith, the detention-center spokesperson, said: “An investigation [of the alleged rape] was immediately conducted in collaboration with the FBI. The investigation portion of this case is complete, and was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.”

Patty Hartman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said: “There are no assault charges filed against a defendant in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania named ‘James Miller,’ and we do not confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence of investigations.”

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