In the Pursuit of Happiness
RaMonica L. Whitfield
In the Pursuit of Happiness
All citizens have the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but what happens when a citizen commits a heinous act such as murder? Should the pursuit of their happiness be granted even though they took the life of another? Are we as a society to take their feelings into consideration and grant them the right to live their life as they wish? A major issue within the United States is the healthcare programs for inmates. One of the largest disputes when it comes to medical treatments/surgeries within the penal system is the sexual reassignment ...view middle of the document...
At the very least “a prisoner who has begun or completed the medical process of gender reassignment prior to admission to a correctional facility should be offered treatment necessary to maintain the prisoner at the stage of transition reached at the time of admission” (Part IV: Health Care Section, 2010). The only time a prisoner can be denied these levels of treatment is if a qualified medical professional decides that such treatment is “medically inadvisable” (Part IV: Health Care Section, 2010). The cost and continued treatment of a sex reassignment surgery averages $7,000 to $50,000 (Zimmerly, 2013). Synthia Kavanagh was convicted of murder for killing her best friend with a hammer. After being incarcerated, she requested that the Correctional Service Canada allow her to undergo a sex reassignment surgery and that she also be allowed to continue receiving hormone therapy (Leishman, 2006). A transfer to a female penitentiary (Joliette) was also part of this request because she was a male-to-female transsexual. The Correctional Service Canada denied the request, and as a result, Kavanagh issued a grievance to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It stated that: “The CSC was engaging in unlawful discrimination on the basis of transsexualism” (Leishman, 2006). The case was heard and as a result the CSC was ordered to pay for the cost of surgery and treatment. Although Kavanagh got all that she asked for, she still suffered from psychiatric problems. This case is important because it proved that even though this surgery, which cost around $12,000 to $65,000 was a waste of tax payer’s money, time in court and the cost of housing an additional female inmate (Leishman, 2006). As stated previously, Kavanagh received her surgery, continued hormone therapy was allowed and she was housed in a female facility, but it still did not change her mental state. In more recent events, an inmate by the name of Michelle, formally Robert, Kosilek has filed and won a lawsuit filed against the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (Penn, 2013). Michelle has claimed that her Eighth Amendment rights had been violated. Her accusations against the MDOC stated that prison officials either disregarded, changed or relieved five specialists that determined that she should undergo sex-reassignment surgery (Penn, 2013). Psychiatrists that had examined Kosilek determined that undergoing this surgery would be “curative” for her Gender Dysphoria (Penn, 2013). Michelle has made numerous attempts to either end her life or conduct the surgery herself through self-mutilation (Penn, 2013). At one point, while incarcerated, she attempted to perform self-castration (Penn, 2013). While this may be the belief of psychiatrist that this will in fact cure her illness, they cannot guarantee that Michelle will be at peace with herself.
Society often disregards the difficulty of defenseless prisoners such as the transgender population because public perception is that...