Structured Negotiation Helps Disability Rights Washington Improve Care for Transgender Incarcerated People

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This is an article about a settlement agreement. It was negotiated by lawyers at Disability Rights Washington. The agreement protects the rights of transgender people in prison in Washington State. This includes disabled people. Transgender people will now get the health care they need while incarcerated. Instead of fighting in a lawsuit, the parties used Structured Negotiation. This is a collaborative process that avoids the expense and stress of a lawsuit. When the negotiation was over the agreement was filed in court. Congratulations to the AVID Program at Disability Rights Washington on this important settlement.

Article updated

This article has been updated since it was first published on October 26, 2023. The most recent update was added on January 26, 2024. Read the updates for this article.

Associated Press photo of the inside of a Washington State rison. two hands gripping prison cell bars from inside a cell, prison employee outside the cell

On October 11, 2023, the AVID program at Disability Rights Washington (DRW) issued a press release with the headline “DRW Reaches Agreement With Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) To Improve Care For Transgender People With Disabilities.”

The Parties used Structured Negotiation to achieve this important result for the rights of incarcerated transgender people, including those with disabilities.

Signing a Structured Negotiation agreement to negotiate in good faith was important from the beginning to establish trust, and I believe it helped keep the parties at the table as we worked to craft and implement a landmark result that was years in the making.Ethan Frenchman, AVID Program Attorney at Disability Rights Washington

After the agreement was reached, the parties filed it in court on the same day a complaint was filed. This strategy, referred to as a consent decree, allows the court to retain jurisdiction as the settlement is implemented.

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The negotiated agreement, including lawyer fees

Elements of the parties’ agreement are described in AVID’s press release announcing the settlement. They include the following:

  • “Patients with gender dysphoria will also be promptly evaluated for gender-affirming surgeries and procedures by a community expert in gender-affirming care and patients will have access to gender-affirming mental health care,” and
  • The Department of Corrections will “ensure that any person with an active prescription for hormone replacement therapy in the community will continue receiving their prescription in prison and that transgender individuals seeking hormone replacement therapy in prison for the first time will generally be eligible to receive such medication upon request absent major medical contra-indications.”

The parties in this case also negotiated attorneys’ fees for Disability Rights Washington.

In civil rights cases in the United States, laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provide for attorneys’ fees for plaintiffs and their lawyers who are successful in pursing civil rights cases such as AVID’s case with the Washington State Department of Corrections. These are called “fee shifting laws” because in the United States people typically have to pay their own lawyers. These laws recognize both that enforcement of civil rights laws (like the ADA) by lawyers is important to a just society, and that people protected by civil rights laws rarely can afford to pay their attorneys.

AVID’s settlement states that the Department of Corrections. . .

will pay Plaintiff $1,500,000.00 (one million, five hundred thousand dollars, and zero cents) for fees and costs incurred in pursuing the claims resolved through the Agreement. In addition, ” As compensation for monitoring progress towards substantial compliance with this Agreement, Defendants shall pay Plaintiff the sum of $300,000.00 (three hundred thousand dollars and zero cents) annually while this Agreement remains in effect.”AVID settlement for transgender incarcerated people

More About AVID and links to resources about this case

The AVID acronym stands for Amplifying Voices Of Incarcerated Individuals With Disabilities. This is the second time the program has used Structured Negotiation to improve conditions of incarceration for disabled people. In 2019 I wrote about another successful AVID Structured Negotiation – an advocacy initiative which won a $10,000.00 prize. See my 2019 article on this website titled Structured Negotiation Helps Washington Advocates Improve Jail Conditions.

More information about this case can be found here: