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Lawsuit Alleges Connecticut Correctional Officials Refused To Treat Transgender Prisoner

Cheryl Senter
New Hampshire Public Radio
Veronica-May Clark, an inmate at a Newtown prison, said she's sought help for gender dysphoria for at least three years, but hasn't gotten it.

A transgender inmate seeking treatment for gender dysphoria is suing state correctional officials.

Veronica-May Clark, a prisoner at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown, has filed a lawsuit on her own behalf against representatives of the Connecticut Department of Correction, alleging that they violated her prisoner civil rights as a transgender woman.

Clark, convicted of murder, said in a court filing that she’s petitioned correctional officials for at least three years to help with her transition. Because she said she hasn’t gotten what she needed, she’s suffered emotional and physical pain.

Clark’s gender dysphoria is outlined in the lawsuit. She apparently asked officials for electrolysis because she was “disgusted” by hair growing on various parts of her body that she said she shaves multiple times a day. She said her condition got so bad that she attempted to harm herself with a pair of nail clippers.  

“If the documents are telling the story that ends up being proven, then it really seems like DOC does not have a handle on this particular prisoner’s medical needs,” said Dan Barrett, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.

Clark said that she was told by Dr. Gerald Valletta, the principal physician at Garner, that transitional treatment can’t be initiated while an inmate is incarcerated.

Last year, the state adopted a law that allows prisoners to continue receiving transitional treatment behind bars.

Barrett said that absent of that law, DOC would still be constitutionally obligated to address any prisoner’s medical needs as they arise.

“A person who comes to prison and then, for example, becomes near-sighted, you’re not allowed to simply refuse to provide them glasses because it occurred after they arrived at prison,” Barrett said. “It’s a medical need that has to be addressed.”

DOC declined an interview request but said in a statement that the agency strives to maintain an environment that’s safe and humane for prisoners.

“The Department of Correction has a comprehensive policy aimed at meeting the unique needs of individuals identified as gender non-conforming,” said spokesperson Karen Martucci. “A thorough assessment by a mental health provider, and treatment if medically appropriate, takes place regardless if the person has received treatment in the community.”

Clark is serving a 75-year prison sentence stemming from an attack on her wife and the wife’s alleged boyfriend. Clark, who used to identify as Nicholas Clark, was convicted on murder charges for the man’s death.

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