In prison she changed her name to Ophelia De’Lonta from the Shakespeare character and the last name of a slain friend.
In 1999 De'Lonta first filed a lawsuit petitioning for hormone treatment, but without success. In 2003 she, with the aid of the Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, again sued the Virginia Department of Corrections and was allowed hormone treatment and to live partially as female, to the extent possible in a male prison.
Occasionally she attempted self-castration, but the VDOC refused to even allow her to be evaluated for transgender surgery. By 2011 De'Lonta was eligible for parole, but failed to get it because of a wide range of prison infractions.
That year she sued again, claiming that the denial of treatment violated the Eighth Amendment. The judge dismissed the case, and she appealed. On January 6, 2012, the ACLUVa filed an amicus brief in support of her appeal, and oral argument took place on October 24, 2012. On January 28, 2013, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Ophelia De’Lonta stated a “plausible” claim that the Virginia Department of Corrections violated her constitutional rights when it refused to have her evaluated for sex reassignment surgery. The case was remanded to the lower court.
In December 2013 it was announced that De'Lonta had been granted parole. She had served 34 years of her sentence. The board chairman of Buckingham Correction Center, where De'Lonta was held, was quoted as saying that the possibility of a court forcing the state to pay for an inmate’s sex-change operation was not a factor in the parole decision.
- Dena Porter. "Va. Inmate sues after gruesome tries at sex change: Woman claims surgery is needed to treat her gender identity disorder". NBC News, 6/7/2011. www.nbcnews.com/id/43315259/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/va-inmate-sues-after-gruesome-tries-sex-change.
- Brief of Amicus Curiae- U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit. 6th January 2012. https://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/2012DeLontaBrief.pdf.
- Opinion – U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit: De'lonta v. Johnson. 01/28/2013. https://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/20130128DeLonta4thCircuitOpinion.pdf.
- "Ophelia De'lonta, Virginia Inmate Serving 73 Years For Bank Robbery, Can Pursue Sex Change Lawsuit Against State". Huffington Post, 01/29/2013. www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/29/ophelia-delonta-virginia-sex-change-lawsuit_n_2572097.html.
- "Victory Behind Bars: Transgender Inmate Ophelia De’Lonta Wins Appeal To See Gender Specialist In Long Struggle For Sex-Reassignment". Queerty, Aug 31 2013. www.queerty.com/transgender-inmate-ophelia-delonta-wins-appeal-to-see-gender-specialist-in-long-struggle-for-sex-reassignment-20130831.
- Larry O'Dell. "Parole granted for Va. transgender inmate seeking sex-change surgery". LGBTQNation, January 16, 2014. www.lgbtqnation.com/2014/01/parole-granted-for-va-transgender-inmate-seeking-sex-change-surgery.
- Diane Walker. "Transgender inmate released, still seeking surgery". NBC News, January 31, 2014. www.nbc12.com/story/24603202/transgender-inmate-released-still-seeking-surgery.