UPDATE (12/8/17, 9:51 am): This story has been updated to include a response from the Illinois Department of Corrections.
A transgender woman in an Illinois men’s prison is seeking an emergency transfer to a correctional facility that houses women, contending that she has been repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted, and beaten by Illinois Department of Corrections officers. In retaliation to her complaints of abuse, the lawsuit states, she was given disciplinary tickets and put in solitary confinement.
The inmate, 26-year-old Strawberry Hampton, who is incarcerated under the name Deon Hampton, filed the emergency motion before U.S. Southern District of Illinois Judge David R. Herndon Thursday. Hampton is currently in solitary confinement at Menard Correctional Center, a maximum security prison in Southern Illinois. The motion also seeks to remove Hampton from solitary confinement.
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“She’s in danger every day she’s there,” said Alan Mills, an attorney with the Uptown People’s Law Center who along with attorneys from Northwestern University’s Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center is representing Hampton.
According to the lawsuit, Hampton has been in solitary confinement at Menard since August. Prior to that, she was incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, where the lawsuit states she was sexually and physically abused by officers.
At Pinckneyville, officers used derogatory slurs when talking to Hampton, according to the complaint. “[Hampton] consistently asked them to stop, but her requests were met with laughter,” the lawsuit states.
The complaint also states that Hampton and another transgender inmate were forced by officers to “perform sexual acts for the officers’ entertainment.”
When Hampton and the other transgender woman stated they were going to file a complaint if harassment continued, they were threatened and Hampton was later beaten, called derogatory slurs and told “this is what happens when you call [Prison Rape Elimination Act] on us,” the lawsuit states.
Hampton said in the lawsuit that she filed a complaint the day after the attack, and as a result of refusing to drop the report she was given several disciplinary tickets and moved into solitary confinement where she was often denied food, the ability to shower and access to her transgender support group.
The lawsuit states that during her transfer to the maximum security facility she was again attacked by officers who told her “This is what happens when you f— with our staff.” At Menard, the lawsuit states, the harassment due to Hampton’s gender identity has continued, and her housing is filthy.
“[Hampton] fears for her life at Menard,” the lawsuit states. “She has already faced serious physical and emotional injury since being at Menard and will continue to face a grave risk of serious injury if she remains there.”
Hampton is set to remain in solitary confinement until April 2018, the lawsuit states.
Mills said he is hoping a hearing happens quickly.
Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lindsey Hess said in a statement that “the department takes these and all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously.” Hess said that they work aggressively to ensure their facilities are compliant with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and that they work with a committee of professionals when making housing decisions for inmates who identify as transgender.