Barnstable County Sheriff weighs in on inmate's sex change request

Cummings files an Amicus Brief in the case of Michelle Kosilek

Barnstable County Sheriff James Cumming's this week came out in support of the state Department of Corrections (DOC) by filing an Amicus Brief in the case of Michelle Kosilek.  Kosilek, 64, who was born Robert Kosilek has requested a sex change operation which would be funded by the taxpayers of the commonwealth.

Kosilek is currently serving a life sentence at MCI Norfolk for the 1990 murder of his wife Cheryl McCaul.  Repeatedly through his incarceration, Kosilek has sued the DOC to allow taxpayer-funded gender reassignment surgery. in January, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit of Boston directed the DOC to allow the surgery. DOC in turn filed an appeal with the full bench of the United States Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling. In a statement DOC said, "While we acknowledge the legitimacy of a gender identity disorder diagnosis, DOC's appeal is based on the lower court's significant expansion of the standard for what constitutes adequate care under the Eight Amendment, and on substantial safety and security concerns regarding Ms. Kosilek's post-surgery needs."

Although no inmates at the Barnstable County House of Correction are currently seeking gender reassignment, Sheriff Cummings in a release Wednesday said he is concerned about the precedent such a decision would create for the state prison system. "If this current court decision stands and houses of correction and prisons are forced to use taxpayer funds to pay for sex changes, not only will we require substantial more money in our budgets to pay for such procedures, but the security concerns for these inmates is significant," said Sheriff Cummings.

The Amicus Brief was filed by Barnstable County Sheriff's Legal Counsel Matthew Murphy. Attorney Murphy is currently acting as Special Assistant Attorney General, according to the BCSO release. Literally translated, Amicus Curiae means "friend of the court". Such a brief, according to Tech Law Journal, allows a party that has shared concerns or similar interests, but who is not part of the litigation, to enter a statement.

Barnstable County Special Sheriff echoed his boss's beliefs that the court did not concern itself with the costs and logistics of providing such a surgery to an inmate. "You're not dropping him off at the waiting room of the hospital and picking him up a few weeks later. This convicted murderer is someone who's going to have to be transported to and from and guarded the entire time, not only during the actual surgery, but during the recovery and convalescence," said Special Sheriff Perry.

"In addition, the cost of providing the appropriate classification and security inside a correctional facility for the remainder of Kosilek’s life is staggering," said Special Sheriff Perry.


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