DOC settlement with transgender inmate risks safety of female inmates

The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) has moved transgender inmate Christina (formerly Craig) Lusk, 57, from the Moose Lake men’s prison to the all-female Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee. Female-identifying Lusk and the DOC reached a settlement after Lusk sued the agency for discrimination and unconstitutional treatment in June 2022. Nearly a year later, Lusk is the first transgender inmate in Minnesota to be moved to a correctional facility based on gender identity rather than biological sex. 

Lusk first identified as transgender in 2008, began medically transitioning in 2009, and has gone by the legal name Christina Suzanne Lusk since 2018. Lusk was incarcerated at the Moose Lake men’s facility, as recommended by the DOC’s Transgender Committee, in 2019 for 1st Degree Possession of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. In Lusk’s complaint, the DOC “placed Ms. Lusk with men subjecting her to discrimination and harassment,” “refused to acknowledge her legal name,” and “arbitrarily deferred Ms. Lusk’s gender-affirming surgery.”  

According to the Civil Cover Sheet from the lawsuit, the DOC violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act and Minnesota Constitution. The Minnesota Human Rights Act states that it is unfair to “discriminate against any person in the access to, admission to, full utilization of or benefit from any public service” and to engage in reprisal against an individual on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. In the complaint, Lusk alleged that the Minnesota Department of Corrections violated the Minnesota Constitution in depriving Lusk of equal protection, using cruel and unusual punishment, and violating Lusk’s “right to bodily integrity and autonomy protected by the due process guarantees.” Furthermore, the complaint also states that, in placing Lusk with male inmates, the DOC fails to meet the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which “creates standards and protocols to prevent the sexual assault and victimization of people in custody. PREA identifies transgender people as a group that is at risk of sexual victimization.”  

While Lusk’s move to the women’s facility is under the guise of protecting the vulnerable, it sets a precedent blatantly disregarding the rights of vulnerable incarcerated women in Minnesota. While Lusk will receive $495,000 and gender affirming care from the DOC as part of the settlement, more than 560 biological women at Shakopee’s correctional facility, on the other hand, are now forced to live with a biological man. According to the DOC, Lusk is only one of 48 transgender-identifying inmates in Minnesota, meaning many more incarcerated biological women could soon be in danger of sexual assault and victimization, opposing the intentions of PREA. By agreeing to settle with Lusk, the DOC honored the wishes of one person identifying as a woman but now risks the safety of biological women going forward. 

Adriana Isabella is a student at Hillsdale College and a current summer intern at American Experiment.