October 15, 2012
Once again, an institution that was founded to protect the rights of the American people has been transformed into a debased vehicle of enabling. Like the welfare system, the initial formation of the American Civil Liberties Union was to serve the disheveled, the unfortunate, and the mistreated. However, the welfare system is being exploited by people without morals, whereas the ACLU is using morality to substantiate a ridiculous request. Both of the aforementioned occurrences are examples of the misappropriation of government funds, but the latter is a far worse abuse of the system because of the probable ramifications for the taxpayers.
In 1990, Robert Kosilek was tried and found guilty of killing his wife, Cheryl Kosilek, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in Norfolk, Massachusetts. Kosilek has since been diagnosed with gender identity, a mental disorder where the patient believes that he or she should have been born a member of the opposite sex. He is identified as a transsexual, in this case a man who is trapped in a woman’s body. This disorder can be particularly stressful and anxiety producing, so medication through hormonal treatments and therapy is necessary to those who have the disorder. And in some rare cases where these patients are suicidal or self-mutilation through acts like self-castration, sex reassignment surgery is deemed necessary by doctors. In 2000, Kosilek sued and won against the government for violating his Eighth Amendment right by claiming that denying him his hormonal treatments was cruel and unusual punishment. The prison and ultimately the taxpayers have had to pay for him to receive regular hormone treatments and at least eight laser hair removal surgeries. When the court denied him a ninth surgery, he sued them again.
This case is strange in that usually when medical attention is denied in a prison, it is because doctors deem the procedure completely unnecessary. However, in this case, the doctors have approved the reassignment surgery and the courts have ruled against it. Sexual reassignment cases have been shot down in many courts despite the doctors approving the procedures because the judges are afraid of the controversy and criticism that is attached to these cases and because of the precedent that they set. Kosilek proved to be one of the rare cases where the surgery was approved by his doctor. He attempted to take his own life twice and attempted self-castration once. The ACLU stepped in on behalf of Kosilek and fought for him. Now, the state is responsible for fees in excess of $500,000 for the surgery not including the attorney fees that Kosilek has accrued.
Torture is completely unacceptable for anyone including prisoners. Hypothetically, they are paying their debt to society through their imprisonment and rehabilitation in prison. But, is denying a murderer an elective surgery wrong even if it soothes his anxiety? Why should the cost of a surgery that is largely cosmetic be pushed onto the taxpayers? Who is paying for the anxiety of the family of dead Kosilek’s wife? What about the implications of the surgery? Does Kosilek go to a women’s prison or is he released into general population in the male prison? What costs are incurred by the security that he would need in either prison? Kosilek is already living off of the working public simply by being in a state facility. Tax payers pay for his current accommodations. They should not have to shoulder more of his bills. The ACLU and the judiciary system have won a battle for Robert Kosilek or “Michelle” as he is now known, but they have failed the American public. When the institutions that protect the American public begins to fight for the comfort of criminals, the well-being of the general public suffers.