12 On Your Side: Next step for paroled transgender inmate

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The family of a transgender inmate is planning on how to help her live successfully outside of prison.

We were the first to tell you about the parole of Ophelia De'Lonta, a transgender inmate locked up half her life. We've followed her efforts to obtain a sex change operation for several years.

Intense counseling is next, once Ophelia is on the outside living with family again. Her niece says gender reassignment surgery will come much later.

Ophelia will be returning to a different world. People didn't talk on cell phones 30 years ago or surf the net. It will be new for her family too.

All Tiffany Stokes remembers growing up is Ophelia locked up.

"That's all I remember, is always going to visit her in prison," said Stokes. "She should have been out a long time ago, and every time it came up for parole, she was denied. I've heard that so many times, but when it came up to this issue, it was just magical. One day I got a call. She was like, 'They paroled me.'"

The family is overjoyed but say the timing is suspect. Parole coincides with two medical examinations that could have lead to the court ordering D.O.C. to provide gender reassignment surgery to stop Ophelia's self castration attempts.

"Funny how they accept her taking the hormones to make her upper half more womanly, but when they started talking about the sex change, then it became a problem."

Her past court victories include counseling, hormone therapy and being able to wear women clothing. She paved the way for other transgender inmates.

"I feel that they should still pay for it and still let her out, you know, but if that's all I get is just her coming back out, I'm just fine with that."

With no job skills, Ophelia will need help getting acclimated to freedom.

"I've been contacting a couple organizations in the LGBT community that's willing to help get her the counseling she needs," said Stokes. "Then, she can save up money, start working, save up money. I think she will make her decision from there."

Virginia Parole Board Chairman Bill Muse says no deal was made with the AG's office or D.O.C. Muse says her parole was handled just like any other case.

Ophelia should be back with her family in about 45 days.

Copyright 2014 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved