California Must Provide Trans Prisoners With Compression Underwear

A Valley State Prison inmate hands out supplies to a fellow inmate during a cosmetology class
A Valley State Prison inmate hands out supplies to a fellow inmate during a cosmetology class / Getty Images
May 4, 2017

A U.S. district judge last week ordered California state prison officials to provide free chest-flattening underwear, also known as compressionĀ tops, to transgender inmates at women's prisons and feminine accessories to transgender inmates at men's prisons.

Requiring inmates to buy compression tops "effectively" denies those items to individuals who cannot afford them, according to U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, who issued the order on Friday. Taxpayers, therefore, must foot the bill.

The order came out of a lawsuit concerning whether transgender prisoners should have access to certain clothing and accessories that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation argues could be altered as a disguise, aiding in escape attempts, the Associated Press reported.

Authorities fear inmates could alter items like nightgowns, robes, and scarves to look like street clothes and escape prison. Still, Tigar expanded the list of products prisoners could receive to include those items, among others.

As part of the order, men's prisons must provide bracelets, earrings, hair brushes, and hair clips for transgender inmates. One judge worried that some of the products posed safety risks to prisoners, but Tigar objected, arguing that items such as earrings and bracelets could be made from materials like rubber.

Shiloh Quine, a 57-year-oldĀ transgender inmate born as Rodney James Quine, brought the suit while serving a life sentence for murder, kidnapping, and robbery. Quine was born male and received a taxpayer-funded sex reassignment surgery in 2015, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

California was the first state to charge taxpayers for a transgender inmate's sex reassignment surgery.