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The most interesting claim of inmates’ rights under the 8th Amendment that I have heard of recently is the claim that the 8th Amendment requires the state to provide hormone therapy for transgender inmates, or at least those who had been undergoing such therapy before they were sentenced to prison.
The 8th Amendment, of course, prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.” The problem, however, is that it does not define what sorts of punishments are cruel and unusual. That issue is left for the courts to decide, leading to instances in which prisoners claim that they are being punished in a cruel and unusual way. One instance of this is happening today in Georgia.
In Georgia, there is a transgender female prison inmate who was born a man but who had been undergoing hormone therapy for decades before being sent to prison. When she was sent to prison, she requested that she be able to continue her therapy. She also requested that she not be forced to serve her time in a prison for men. Neither of these requests was granted. The woman is currently suing the state to force it to grant her requests. As of yet, there has not been a final result to this case. The US Department of Justice has sided with the woman in her claim, but it cannot force the state of Georgia to grant her requests. The issue will still need to be decided in court.
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