Parole Board: Decision to parole transgender inmate not based on court case

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - We know more about the decision to parole Ophelia De'Lonta and when she will walk out of Buckingham Correctional Center to freedom.

The transgender inmate is being granted parole in the middle of a controversial, landmark case to determine whether taxpayers should pay for her sex change surgery. The Virginia Parole Board says the parole decision had nothing to do with the court case.

Ophelia De'Lonta's niece says the D.O.C. is planning a home visit between now and March 26.

De'Lonta's 2004 court settlement allowed her to dress like a woman and get hormone therapy, in prison, to stop the urge to self-castrate. Diagnosed with Gender Identification Disorder, she continued to cut herself despite the hormones, and the legal fight for a state financed sex-reassignment surgery began.

Ophelia says two doctors, one hired by her attorney and another by D.O.C. say the surgery is medically necessary. She read part of one evaluation conducted by Dr. George Brown with the Professional Association of Transgender Health:

"Ophelia De'Lonta indisputably has severe G.I.D. As diagnosed by numerous D.O.C. employees and contracted clinicians, and I concur with their diagnosis... Her condition is chronic severe and untreated."
Her release now raises questions about its impact on the court case and who pays for the surgery if the court orders it. Ophelia believes the state would, because parolees are still under D.O.C. jurisdiction.

"Under normal circumstances, once you actually are released, you are responsible for yourself," said William Muse, chairman of the Virginia Parole Board. "When you leave the prison, D.O.C. is not going to be sending you groceries every month, will not be providing a bed for you. You are released, and with the exception of being supervised by a parole officer, you are not in custody."

Muse says Ophelia has had a stable adjustment the last two years. The board believes she has a strong support system outside, and she will be a success.  

He says a judge will decide the court issue. That was simply not their concern.

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