We represent Cristina Nichole Iglesias – a woman in federal custody – who has been denied critical medical care, raped, physically and sexually abused, and even held hostage while housed in facilities for men. The BOP has recognized that Ms. Iglesias is a transgender woman and diagnosed her with gender dysphoria as far back as 1994, but has refused to provide her the basic medical care she needs and refused to move her to a women’s facility choosing instead to incarcerate her with men even in the face of escalating attacks and threats on her life. 

Correctional experts have long understood the high likelihood of sexual assault that transgender women face when held in facilities for men, which is why the regulations implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) require prisons – including federal prisons – to make individualized placement decisions that consider where each transgender person feels they would be safest. These regulations prohibit prisons from placing prisoners in a male or female facility solely based on their anatomy or gender assigned at birth. This approach is undermined by the Trump Administration’s change to BOP policy. 

The federal government had taken various steps under the previous presidential administration to better address the particular vulnerabilities that transgender individuals face in federal custody. However, two years ago, the Trump administration rescinded policy guidance intended to protect the lives and safety of transgender prisoners. Among other things, the Trump Administration rule makes placement decisions based on a person’s assigned gender at birth. This approach reversed the progress that had been made in finally recognizing the authentic existence of women who are transgender and the risks they face when housing them in men’s facilities.

We have agreed to represent Ms. Iglesias in asking the BOP to provide her with the gender dysphoria treatment she needs, consistent with well-recognized medical standards, and to protect her safety by transferring her to a women’s prison as required by her treatment. In addition to transfer, we have asked that Ms. Iglesias be evaluated by medical personnel qualified to care for someone with gender dysphoria, permanent hair removal and gender affirming surgery. 

Find out more about our work to protect transgender prisoners in the Illinois prison system


John Knight, Josh Blecher-Cohen (ACLU of Illinois) Angela M. Povolish (Feirich Mager Green Ryan), Taylor Brown (ACLU), Katherine D. Hundt, Courtney Block, Frank Battaglia, Kevin Warner (Winston & Strawn LLP)

Date filed

September 8, 2020


U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois