Federal prison inmate to get gender-affirming surgery: ACLU

Cristina Nichole Iglesias has been fighting for years to have the procedure. She is serving a 28-year prison sentence for threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.

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Cristina Nichole Iglesias, a former federal inmate in Illinois, is expected to become the first person in federal custody to receive gender-affirming surgery.

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A federal inmate has won a legal fight to secure gender-affirming surgery from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, according to the woman’s lawyers.

Cristina Nichole Iglesias, who has been in prison for almost two decades for threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction, is set to become the first inmate in federal custody to receive the surgery, according to her attorneys.

“I feel so relieved,” Iglesias said in a statement. “I fought for so long to get the health care I need, but wasn’t sure this day would ever come. Now, the federal government has finally agreed to provide me with gender-affirming surgery. This will change my life and allow me to live as the woman I am. Gender-affirming care is necessary, lifesaving, and — for me and so many others — long overdue.”

As part of the settlement with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the agency agreed to provide Iglesias with “vaginoplasty” and “other medically necessary gender-affirming procedures, including permanent facial hair removal, facial-feminization surgery and breast augmentation,” according to ACLU Illinois, whose lawyers represent Iglesias.

“Because of BOP’s long delays in providing Ms. Iglesias’ care, any surgeries that occur after Ms. Iglesias is released from BOP custody will be paid for from an escrow fund administered by a retired federal judge,” the ACLU said in a statement.

Iglesias is currently housed in a residential re-entry center in Florida. She is expected to be released later this year.

Iglesias has tried for years to persuade the bureau to approve her surgery. She filed a lawsuit in 2019 while she was housed in the federal prison in downstate Marion.

According to that lawsuit, at age 12, Iglesias told her mother she wanted to live as a girl. In 2009, she tried to castrate herself, the suit states.

In April, the federal judge overseeing the legal case accused the bureau of prisons of treating the case as a game of “whack-a-mole” and threatened the agency with fines.

“Throughout this litigation, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has employed tactics similar to the game of Plinko on ‘The Price is Right.’ BOP was warned for employing these tactics, and it apologized,” U.S. District Chief Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel of the Southern District of Illinois wrote in a memo and order. “Now BOP’s tactics are turning into a game of ‘whack-a-mole.’ Indeed, it appeared the last of BOP’s moles had been ‘whacked.’ Then another one ‘popped up.’”

At the time, Rosenstengel ordered weekly updates and a detailed plan to make sure that Iglesias got the surgery.

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