JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri has paid lawyers representing a transgender inmate more than $300,000 after she won a federal lawsuit last year forcing the state to provide her hormone therapy.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Noelle Collins on March 27 ordered the state to pay $354,556 in attorney fees and costs to lawyers representing Jessica Hicklin, a transgender woman who is serving a life sentence at the maximum security Potosi Correctional Center.
Hicklin was sentenced to life in prison at age 16 after she was convicted of fatally shooting a man during a drug-related crime in the western Missouri town of Clinton in 1995.
Records show the Missouri attorney general’s office paid $301,372 on May 6 to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc., which represented Hicklin.
The records show the state has paid an additional $8,935 in costs associated with the case since August 2017.
A spokesman with the attorney general’s office, and Hicklin’s attorneys, did not respond to an email asking why the total paid out to Hicklin’s attorneys differed from the amount in the judge’s order.
Hinklin’s lawsuit challenged the Missouri Department of Corrections’ “freeze frame” policy that barred treatment for transgender inmates who weren’t receiving hormone therapy before they were incarcerated.
The refusal of the state to provide medically necessary care — including hormone therapy, permanent hair removal and access to “gender affirming” care products — was arbitrary and unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment, Hicklin’s attorneys argued.
Hicklin was diagnosed in 2015 with gender dysphoria, according to the lawsuit. The medical term, listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnoses manual, refers to the distress a person feels because of a conflict and disconnect between their gender at birth and the gender with which they identify.
In May 2018, Collins issued a permanent injunction ordering the Department of Corrections to provide care deemed “medically necessary” by Hicklin’s doctors as long as she was in state custody.
The order also enjoined the state from enforcing its “freeze frame” policy.
Karen Pojmann, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said nine inmates were currently undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
She did not say how many inmates had started the therapy in prison after the court’s ruling.
“We contract with Corizon Health to provide all medical services for offenders,” Pojmann said in an email. “Hormone replacement therapy doesn’t entail an additional cost; it’s part of our overall offender health care budget.”