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Judge OKs transgender inmate's hormone treatments

Wednesday - 4/2/2014, 7:32pm  ET

This undated photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shows Antione Lee. A federal judge has ordered Ohio to restore hormone treatment to transgender inmate Lee, who refers to herself as Whitney Lee, who sued after her treatments were stopped. A legal complaint says Lee experienced a medical setback and depression after prison officials abruptly stopped the treatment in February 2012. (AP Photo/Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections)

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
AP Legal Affairs Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- State prison officials must immediately resume hormone treatments for a transgender inmate who argued that she suffered a medical setback including facial hair growth and depression when her treatments stopped, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

Antione Lee, who goes by Whitney Lee, had undergone continuous hormone therapy since 1999 until the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction abruptly halted the treatments in February 2012, according to federal court complaints.

She is housed with men at Mansfield Correctional Institution, where she is serving a three-year sentence on forgery and theft charges out of Hamilton County.

Lee, 36, had previously received the treatments at home, in federal prison and in the Hamilton County Justice Center, according to a request for an emergency order filed by the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice & Policy Center. That included estrogen treatment approved by prison authorities while Lee was imprisoned in 2009 and 2010, the request said.

Lee began dressing as a woman as a teenager and has been living as a woman since she was 18, the center's complaint said.

Without the treatments, Lee lost breast tissue, her voice deepened, her skin became coarser and she began growing facial hair, among other symptoms, the request said. She also has grown irritable and angry and was placed on suicide watch, according to the request.

"Deprivation of hormone treatment wreaks havoc on Ms. Lee's physical and mental health and puts her life in danger," it said.

The prisons department has argued Lee didn't exhaust the prison grievance procedures and the case should be dismissed.

The 1997 federal Prison Litigation Reform Act requires all such administrative remedies to be followed before a federal lawsuit over an inmate's confinement can be filed, said the department, which didn't immediately comment on the judge's order Wednesday.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.


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