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Convicted terrorist to receive US taxpayer-funded sex-change surgery

United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Indiana. (U.S. Bureau of Prisons photo/Released)
June 13, 2022

A convicted terrorist who identifies as transgender will become the first inmate to receive U.S. taxpayer-funded sex-change surgery while in federal prison in what the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called a “historic…victory” for the “right to health care” while incarcerated. A court settlement finalized last month orders an initial $502,000 to pay for all surgeries and related costs before Nov. 15, 2022, after which, an undetermined amount could be required for additional care.

According to court documents, Kenneth Ray West, now known as Cristina Nichole Iglesias, was sentenced to prison in 1994 for sending “threatening letters” to federal judges and U.S. attorneys. Iglesias also pleaded guilty in 2005 to making additional threats by mail, including letters that contained fake anthrax.

Iglesias, a 47-year-old Caucasian biological male, is set to be released on Christmas Day this year at the conclusion of a 240-month sentence, but wants to get sex-change surgery before release. In pursuit of this goal, U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel ordered the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to find a surgeon that can operate on Iglesias.

A court settlement agreement dated May 27, 2022, orders that $502,000 be deposited into an account for Iglesias’ healthcare and related tax needs. Up to $350,000 is to be used for surgery, while up to $152,000 is to be used for Iglesias’ tax burden resulting from the disbursement.

If the surgeries are not performed by Nov. 15, 2022, the legal teams are ordered to meet to determine additional funding that will be required to pay for all surgeries, related medical costs, personal assistance, as well as all “necessary and reasonable transportation, lodging, food, and medical supply costs” after Iglesias’ release from prison.

Further, the agreement requires BOP to pay $983,552 to Iglesias’ legal team.

“In a landmark settlement, our client Cristina Iglesias will be the first trans person to receive gender-affirming surgery in federal custody. Incarcerated people have a right to health care, and this settlement is a victory for that constitutional and human right,” the ACLU tweeted.

The ACLU said in a statement that the BOP will provide Iglesias with sex-change surgery that was first requested in January 2016, as well as “other medically necessary gender-affirming procedures including permanent hair removal, breast augmentation, and facial-feminization surgery.”

“In the settlement, BOP also committed to setting the first-ever target timelines for considering prisoners’ requests for gender-affirming care. BOP will also expand their list of medically necessary gender-affirming treatments and update resources and training for BOP employees. These changes will help the more than 1,200 transgender people in BOP custody better access the gender-affirming care they need,” the ACLU stated.

The Washington Free Beacon reported that the price for a sex change operation is estimated to be between $25,000 to $100,000 or more. According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, healthcare in the years following surgery amounts to $40,000 annually for the first five years. After 10 years, the yearly cost drops to $10,000.

The sex-change surgery comes after the BOP allowed Iglesias to begin hormone therapy in 2015. Iglesias later sued the BOP without representation, and after more than a year, the ACLU stepped in to help with Iglesias’ case, arguing that denying the convicted terrorist sex-change surgery is a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.  

“To Ms. Iglesias, her genitalia feel like an abnormal and life-threatening growth on her body, like a malignant tumor from cancer that needs to be removed,” the ACLU’s complaint stated.