Mitchell v. Kallas, No. 16-3350 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Mitchell is a transgender person who has identified as a woman her entire life. In 2008, Mitchell received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. She was convicted of a crime and sent to Wisconsin’s Columbia Correctional Institution in 2011. Mitchell requested hormone treatment, triggering a multistep process that the Department of Corrections outlined in its then-new policy on Health Care Treatment of Gender Identity Disorder. It took DOC over a year to evaluate Mitchell’s candidacy for hormone therapy. DOC then refused to provide Mitchell with the treatment its own expert recommended, on the ground that Mitchell was within a month of release from the prison. Although DOC’s Mental Health Director encouraged Mitchell to find a community provider to prescribe her hormones, the terms of Mitchell’s parole actually prohibited her from taking hormones or dressing as a woman. Mitchell sued. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the district court prematurely rejected some of Mitchell’s claims. Persons in criminal custody are entirely dependent on the state for their medical care, so prison officials have a constitutional duty to provide inmates with the care they require for serious medical needs. Prison staff cannot wait for an inmate’s sentence to expire before providing necessary treatments; state officials may not block a parolee from independently obtaining health care. The condition must be serious enough to trigger constitutional protection; otherwise, the nature of the disorder is irrelevant.