Wyoming Corrections Hasn’t Paid For Prisoner Sex Changes, But Will Give Hormones

The Wyoming Department of Corrections told Cowboy State Daily it hasn’t paid for any gender-reassignment surgeries for transgender inmates, but has provided hormones.

Clair McFarland

August 09, 20233 min read

A pair of Wyoming Department of Corrections officers move an inmate.
A pair of Wyoming Department of Corrections officers move an inmate. (Wyoming Department of Corrections)

The Wyoming Department of Corrections has not paid for any gender-reassignment surgeries for its transgender inmates, but provides hormones in some cases.  

Responding to a Cowboy State Daily request for information, DOC Communications Director Stephanie Kiger said in an email that the department provides hormone therapy medications to inmates who were already on hormones before going to prison, and for whom a medical provider determines it necessary.

Male To Female 

All 10 of the Wyoming prison system’s transgender inmates are biological males who identify as females.  

That’s typical, Kiger said.  

“Anecdotally speaking, what WDOC generally has experienced is inmates who request special accommodations are male-to-female,” she wrote in the email.  

The department hasn’t tracked that data in the past, but is making changes to its system to track the numbers in the future, a change resulting from an audit of the department’s performance under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, Kiger said.  

None of the 10 male-to-female transgender inmates in Wyoming prisons are now housed in female facilities. Kiger said prison staffers don’t allow male inmates to have contact with female inmates. 

No Cross-Sex Violence 

There have been no instances of sexual or non-sexual violence by male-to-female transgender inmates against females, or vice versa, said Kiger.  

“Absolutely not,” she wrote. “The WDOC does not permit contact between male and female inmates at our facilities.” 

The DOC adopted its first transgender inmate policy in 2021.  

There have been cases in the past in which Wyoming courts have ordered the department to put a male in the female facility, Kiger wrote. But the department hasn’t permitted physical contact between male and female inmates since 2021.  

Checking It Out 

Female corrections officers may soon be asked to skin-search male-to-female transgender inmates, if the department’s Transgender Review Committee approves that accommodation for any inmates.  

The department will only have women do the skin searches if they’re willing, Kiger said.  

Skin searches are common, according to a source familiar with the process. In a skin search, the inmate strips and hands the corrections officer all of his or her clothes.  

Two staff members get involved. They look through the inmate’s clothing, check behind the ears, in armpits, under genitals, look over the buttocks, then have the inmate squat and cough.   

A federal rule pertaining to the Prison Rape Elimination Act says the facility can’t conduct “cross-gender” strip or (the much more involved) body cavity searches except in exigent circumstances or when medical professionals are performing the search, but that rule does not define the term “gender” or “cross-gender.”  

The rule does, however, define “gender identity” as the “internal sense of feeling male or female.”  

The word “gender” appears multiple times in the federal rules pertaining to the Prison Rape Elimination Act, but not in the 2003 federal law itself.   

Departments are required to follow federal rules when implementing a law.  

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter