PIERRE, S.D. — A transgender prisoner at the South Dakota State Penitentiary has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against South Dakota Department of Corrections officials for violating the prisoner's rights to freedom of expression, to be free of cruel and unusual punishment and to due process and equal protection of the laws.
Jenna Hansen, the plaintiff in the case, filed the amended complaint on Oct. 16 though an original complaint was filed on Jan. 25.
Hansen, whose legal name is Jason L. Hansen, is a transgender prisoner serving a 70-year prison sentence in South Dakota.
According to the federal court complaint, Hansen is alleging that the defendants refused and continue to refuse to appropriately identify and treat Hansen’s gender dysphoria and have punished and continue to punish Hansen, both of which have violated and continue to threaten Hansen’s constitutional rights.
Hansen, 40, has been incarcerated in the Jameson Annex facility at state penitentiary complex in Sioux Falls, since Feb. 6, 1998 and is serving a 70-year sentence after he pleaded guilty but mentally ill to abducting an 8-year-old girl from a school playground in Box Elder in June of 1997.
Hansen was also charged with rape, which was dropped as part of the plea agreement.
In 2010, Hansen was linked to a Rapid City rape case from 1997 in which a 5-year-old girl was raped two weeks prior to the Box Elder incident.
She was sentenced to 40 years in prison, which would run concurrently with her previous prison sentence.
Hansen is suing the over 20 state Department of Corrections employees.
Hansen attempted self-castration in 2014, then again in 2016, to remove “what she believed was the source of her offensive testosterone."The complaint states that Hansen has suffered from symptoms of gender dysphoria all her life, which she believes was caused or resulted from her being sexually abused since early childhood. Hansen attempted to hang herself with a bed sheet at the prison facility in 2009 because “she felt as though she could not be herself, a woman, and therefore wanted to give up, to quit living as a male," the complaint states.
On Dec. 27, 2015, Hansen was written up for having light brown lip gloss in the locker of her cell and was consequently confined in a special housing unit, also known as “the hole” for three days, according to court documents filed by Hansen.
Hansen has made repeated requests, both verbally and through informal resolution requests to prison staff that also served as members of a committee created to address gender nonconforming complaints from inmates. Those requests were rejected or ignored, according to court documents filed by Hansen.
Hansen has also requested sports bras, boxer briefs, estrogen pills and other amenities that she felt would provide relief from the gender dysphoria symptoms.
The corrections department is required by Prison Rape Elimination Act Standards to form a gender nonconforming committee, whose members decide whether an inmate is to be defined as gender nonconforming and how they are to be treated, Hansen alleges in court documents.
The members of the committee rejected many of Hansen’s requests because there was no behavioral health order allowing the requests for Hansen.
After using a razor blade to cut herself while in a deep depression in October of 2018, the had a specialist evaluate Hansen for gender dysphoria.
Hansen was evaluated on Oct. 29 and 30, 2018 by Cynthia Osbourne, a psychotherapist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, specializing in gender dysphoria evaluations.
Hansen was denied access to Osbourne’s report by prison behavioral health staff for over five months.
After repeated requests, Hansen was shown a copy of her evaluation report, in which Osbourne determined that Hansen was suffering from gender dysphoria and recommended she be allowed makeup, other feminine accommodations, feminine undergarments, hormone treatment and hair removal.
Hansen is requesting the court to declare that the acts in the complaint were unconstitutional, issue injunctions to allow or provide Hansen make-up and other appropriate hygiene products as allowed by other female prisoners in South Dakota correctional facilities, sports bras, boxer briefs, body hair removal, head hair growth hormones, estrogen enhancers, testosterone blockers, private strip searches and showers while confined within the special housing unit, gender changing surgery, name change and counseling. Hansen is also seeking an award of $700,000 for damages.
As of Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, the state had not yet filed a response to Hansen's latest complaint, according to federal court records.
South Dakota's Department of Corrections, Department of Social Services and Department of Health approved a $43,475 contract with Osbourne for consulting services that involve face-to-face assessments with six inmates and provide a diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Osbourne is also contract to provide treatment guidance to staff and review and develop policies.
The contract documents are available on the state’s open records website.