Fake Breasts, Laser Hair Removal, and Facial Feminization: California Taxpayers Bankroll $4 Million Worth of Gender-Affirming 'Enhancements' for Prisoners, Including Four Death Row Inmates

(Daniel Arauz via Wikimedia Commons)
November 6, 2023

California since 2017 has spent more than $4 million of taxpayer money on surgical sex changes and cosmetic "gender-affirming" enhancements for inmates, including 4 on death row, according to records obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The state has spent nearly $2.5 million on vaginoplasties and hundreds of thousands of dollars on fake breasts, laser hair removal, and facial feminization since 2017, when California became the first state in the nation to pay for prisoners' sex-change operations. The state corrections department says it has not placed any limits on the type of procedures trans-identifying prisoners can request and, as of early this summer, had received nearly 1,000 petitions for "gender-affirming" surgeries, agency records show.

California's lack of guardrails for trans-identifying prisoners stands in sharp contrast to its rules around inmate dental care, for instance, which don't allow for root canals on back teeth, cosmetic tooth restoration or replacement, or treatment of oral ulcers—among other services.

"People who think they're transgender have rights, and they should be treated with dignity and respect, but it does not include taxpayer dollars being used to do surgeries that are experimental at best and scientifically unjustified at worst," said attorney Harmeet Dhillon, who has represented California inmates struggling to get basic and necessary medical care.

From 2017 through mid-July 2023, taxpayers have bankrolled at least 157 transgender procedures and treatments, spending nearly $2.5 million on vaginoplasties—the creation of artificial vaginas and vulvas—for 35 male prisoners, according to previously unreported records obtained by women's prison advocate Amie Ichikawa and reviewed by the Free Beacon.

Eleven male inmates have received breast implants, at a cost of more than $180,000, while two have received facial feminization surgeries for $184,141. Sixty-nine males have gotten laser hair removal for a total of $224,000. Forty female prisoners have had their breasts removed for a total of more than $1 million.

Four people on death row have received sex-reassignment surgery, according to records obtained by the Free Beacon. The corrections agency in a separate records disclosure said it approves inmates' requests for transgender procedures on a case-by-case basis.

Meanwhile, the cost pressures around trans-identifying prisoners are mounting. Corrections agency officials this year requested nearly $2.2 million in new funds solely for transgender care, budget documents show. Some of those costs cover the hiring of two additional full-time senior psychiatrists, a physician and part-time surgeon, and two social workers.

California's mandate to cover inmates' sex-change procedures came from a 2016 legal settlement with Shiloh Quine, a convicted male murderer with gender dysphoria who is serving a life sentence. Represented by the George Soros-funded Transgender Law Center, Quine secured the right for trans-identifying prisoners to have items typically prohibited to male inmates for security reasons—such as chains, necklaces, and scarves.

In 2014, just 131 California inmates identified as transgender. At last count this month, that number was up to 1,847, including hundreds who identify as nonbinary. A February 2021 legislative report said the corrections agency "believes that the recent growth in the transgender inmate population is due to agency efforts" to transfer inmates based on their chosen "gender identity."