California prison inmates who are suffering from severe mental problems will now be eligible to have sex reassignment surgery while incarcerated and have the State of California pay for it. This is the first state to authorize this type of expenditure. The major question is: should the State be involved with this at all? The guidelines mandate that the inmate have been taking hormone therapy for at least 1 year and have consistently expressed a desire to change their biological gender before an operation can be performed. In addition, the inmate’s doctor must say the inmate is suffering significant distress due to a mental condition known as gender dysphoria. There are currently 385 inmates in the State prison system to whom this issue applies. The number is expected to grow. The inmate who spurred this change in policy is serving a life sentence for murder and has tried to kill himself/herself on multiple occasions.  Should he State become involved in this at all? Should the State be required to ease an inmate’s psychological pain, or should the inmate just have relief from physical pain? The costs of these procedures could run anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000 per person. Could state resources be better used elsewhere?

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A federal judge apparently has no sense of humor. Federal Judge Lawrence O’Neill increased the sentence of a criminal defendant by one year because he laughed while being sentenced by the judge. The increase in the sentence arose from arguing and disrespecting the staff at a halfway house. The defendant had been in prison for 6 years for being a felon in possession of a firearm.  After the defendant laughed, the court felt that the defendant had not “learned” what he needed and tacked on an additional year for him. Should he have done this? Should judges not act in a reflex action and consider the gravity of the offense (laughing) compared to the gravity of the sentence (one more year in jail).

A State of California Deputy Attorney General was arrested in the midst of a trial because she was shouting at opposing counsel and resisting the bailiff’s attempt to remove her from the courtroom. Everyone understands that tempers can rise, but to get to this level, the actions are bizarre. One must be a “zealous advocate” for their client, but not to this extent. The State Attorney had lost three prior dismissal motions on this case. Will this be much ado about nothing, or is this systematic of greater problems with both the Criminal Defense Attorney and/or the system?

What say you?