Adree Edmo jail portrait

Adree Edmo

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After a yearslong court battle, an Idaho prisoner has become only the second incarcerated person in the country to receive gender confirmation surgery while in prison.

Adree Edmo, 32, a transgender woman, received the surgery on July 10, according to Deborah Ferguson, Edmo’s lawyer. Jeff Ray, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Correction, confirmed Edmo is currently at the Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino to facilitate follow-up medical care, but she will be transferred to the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center in Pocatello, “once it is medically appropriate to do so.”

Edmo, 32, was born male but identifies as female. In 2012 prison doctors diagnosed her with gender dysphoria — a condition in which the dissonance between a person’s birth gender and the gender with which they identify is significant and hurtful. Not all transgender people have gender dysphoria, and not everyone who has gender dysphoria requires gender confirmation surgery, but in severe cases — such as Edmo’s — it can be a treatment option. At the core of the case was a disagreement between medical experts about whether Edmo needed the surgery or not.

Edmo is serving prison time after sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy; her sentence will be satisfied in 2021. The Idaho Department of Correction policy on the placement of inmates with gender dysphoria requires inmates be placed, in most cases, “in a correctional facility consistent with the inmate’s primary physical sexual characteristics,” according to the policy document.

In 2017, Edmo filed a lawsuit against the state of Idaho and the Idaho Department of Correction’s health care partner, Corizon Health, saying they had violated her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment by not providing the surgery as treatment.

Both a federal district court and an appellate court ruled in Edmo’s favor, but Gov. Brad Little vowed repeatedly to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, a promise he followed through on. The state had been ordered to provide surgery for Edmo by July, and as that deadline loomed, state attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to pause that timeline so the case could be argued. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to do so — all but guaranteeing the surgery would take place.

The state exhausted a number of attempts at recourse in fighting the order to provide surgery for Edmo. The first order came in December 2018, from a U.S. District Court judge. Idaho appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; a panel of judges there ruled in August that Idaho and Corizon must provide the surgery for Edmo. After that, Idaho asked for another hearing at the circuit court level, this one including a larger panel of judges. The circuit court in February rejected that request. The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to step in the way of the surgery followed.

In 2017, a California prison inmate became the first prisoner in the country to receive gender confirmation surgery, after the state agreed to pay for it in 2015, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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