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Breaking the Binary: How Shifts in Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence Can Help Ensure Safe Housing and Proper Medical Care for Inmates with Gender Dysphoria

Posted by on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 in En Banc, Notes and Comments.



The Eighth Amendment prohibition against imposing cruel and unusual punishments requires correctional facilities to provide their inmates adequate medical care and reasonably safe housing accommodations. Those with gender dysphoria have unique needs and vulnerabilities related to housing and healthcare while incarcerated. Under the current framework for adjudicating inmates’ Eighth Amendment claims, defendants are frequently able to avoid liability, leaving many transgender plaintiffs without legal recourse for constitutional violations. This Note addresses that framework’s shortcomings and proposes shifts in Eighth Amendment jurisprudence that would comport with Supreme Court precedent, adhere to expert medical consensus, and hold defendants more consistently accountable for failing to provide transgender inmates safe housing and proper medical care. This Note calls on correctional facilities to abandon strict adherence to the gender binary and embrace prudent professional standards regarding treatments for gender dysphoria, which would ultimately require providing inmates gender-confirmation surgeries and housing reassignments in certain circumstances.


Morgan S. Mason
J.D. Candidate, Class of 2018, Vanderbilt University Law School;
B.A., 2015, University of Tennessee