The fight of a transgender woman to be transferred to a female prison has finally given its fruits. It took her a year, four lawsuits and uncountable abuses from corrections officers and other inmates to get there. However, her lawyers hope the case can help other transgender people in similar situations.
Strawberry Hampton, born as Deon, is serving a 10-year sentence for burglary. After a year of fighting against the system for her rights, the Illinois Department of Corrections finally agreed on moving her from the Dixon Correctional Center, an all-male prison, to the women’s Logan Correctional Center.
"The fight for Strawberry and for all trans women in IDOC has only just begun.”
It hasn’t been a smooth ride for Strawberry. She stayed in three different correctional centers before arriving in Dixon and filed for lawsuits against all of the centers for the same reasons: prison staff and other inmates were physically and mentally abusing her.
Hampton filed a lawsuit against the Pinckneyville Correctional Center alleging that between 2016 and 2017, guards forced her to engage in sexual acts with her cellmate after assaulting her. She also revealed that after reporting the situation, the guards beat her and send her to solitary for an entire year.
Later, she was moved to the Menard Correctional Center, where the abuses continued. Not only did the guards beat her in revenge for the complains she made about Pinckneyville but also went as far as making her perform sexual acts on them.
“The officers at Menard, like those at Pinckneyville, attempted to cover up their actions by giving Plaintiff false disciplinary tickets, which kept adding to her segregation time,” her lawyer explained in court papers.
Later, Strawberry was transferred to Lawrence Correctional Center, where officers called her with slurs and refused to protect her from the other inmates who would always threaten her.
In March this year, Hampton sued the Illinois Department of Corrections with a federal lawsuit. That’s when she was transferred to Dixon and put in segregation. However, the IDOC offered Strawberry mental health assistance, so she withdrew the suit.
But the abuse continued, so she filed a complaint on her suit to be moved to an all-female prison, based on the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which mandates that transgender inmates be placed on a case-by-case basis with their safety as a priority.
She also alleged that her rights had been violated, according to the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits discrimination based on gender.
Initially, Hampton’s request was denied, but her representatives from the MacArthur Justice Center, and the Uptown People’s Law Center refused to give up on the case. In November, District Court Judge Nancy Rosenstengel ordered IDOC to review all the evidence gathered in the case and gave them two weeks to come up with a plan to train their guards on transgender issues.
On December 27, it was announced that Strawberry was granted the request to be transferred to women’s prison.
Vanessa del Valle of the MacArthur Justice Center said that while Strawberry’s case is seen as a victory, there’s still a lot to do in regards to transgender’s right by the IDOC.
Source: Wikimedia Common Images
“IDOC has done nothing to remedy the systemic failures that created the persistent harm Strawberry has endured since she entered IDOC custody,” she stated. “The fight for Strawberry and for all trans women in IDOC has only just begun.”
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