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January 19, 2014

Your tax dollars at work in incarceration nation

Two very different recent stories about two very different prisoners have the unifying theme of taxpayers footing the bill.  Here are the headlines and the starts of the stories:

"Federal appeals court upholds Mass. inmate’s right to taxpayer-funded sex change surgery"

A federal appeals court in Boston today upheld a judge’s ruling that a transsexual inmate convicted of murder is entitled to a taxpayer-funded sex change operation as treatment for her severe gender identity disorder. In a ruling that was a first of its kind, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit said courts must not shy away from enforcing the rights of all people, including prisoners. “And receiving medically necessary treatment is one of those rights, even if that treatment strikes some as odd or unorthodox,” the court said.

“Having carefully considered the relevant law and the extensive factual record, we affirm the judgment of the district court,” the court said in a 2-1 ruling, which could still be appealed to the full appeals court or to the US Supreme Court.

"Ex-Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway wants out of Camp Cupcake"

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway, who is serving a one-year sentence for bank fraud, wants out of prison and says her unique status is keeping her confined longer than what’s normal.

Hathaway, in a self-drafted motion filed today, asks U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara to let her out early or allow her to serve the rest of her sentence at home. O’Meara sentenced Hathaway on May 28 to 12 months and one day in prison, plus two years’ probation, after she pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud in connection with the short sale of her Grosse Pointe Park home.  She reported to prison in August.

She is serving her time in Alderson, W.Va., at a federal facility sometimes referred to as Camp Cupcake because of its relatively comfortable conditions, compared with some federal prisons.  Former Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers also served time there.

In her motion, Hathaway says she would normally be eligible for a move to a halfway house at this point in her sentence, but the Bureau of Prisons won’t consider such a move because of security and safety concerns because she is a former sentencing judge. Instead, she is only eligible to serve the last 10% of her sentence at home, Hathaway said in the motion. “Defendant is being denied equal protection of the law,” Hathaway told the judge.

Lest I be misunderstood, I am not saying that the incarceration costs for these two very different offenders are not worthwhile. Rather, I am just highlighting the (annoying?) reality that just about every interesting prison story in incarceration nation is being funded and fueled by state and federal tax dollars.

January 19, 2014 at 08:19 AM | Permalink


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What the sex change case highlights is the need for a re-definition of "custody." Criminals should not be able to obtain, at taxpayer expense, that which, had they not committed their crime, they would have to pay for themselves, or do without.

There can be a reasonable debate about what incarceration should or should not do, but this much is clear: Committing crime should not confer benefits that, had you obeyed the law, you'd have to pay for yourself.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 19, 2014 1:59:43 PM

Nice policy concept from Bill Otis, crime should not be rewarded. Appears self evident, except to appellate judges.

I think the next patriotic President should name Bill Otis to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, after subjecting the current denizens to microscopic investigations to pressure one to retire. Bring the Inquisition to the Inquisitors.


Sex change surgery is no more than cosmetic surgery, to make the patient more comfortable with their appearance. No more medically necessary than the repair of a big nose.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 19, 2014 3:15:08 PM

Regarding the sex change: Does she want a uknow what? Think of the complications if the surgery goes bad and it falls off. They will be calling here Nodick or somesuch name. Instead, give her a prop. This came up on Prop I in California three years ago.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 19, 2014 9:44:50 PM

I am still trying to figure out what quack dr. certified a sex change as "medically necessary" funny I though the only things in that list where those things that saved a life.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 20, 2014 2:14:41 AM

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