Lawsuit: Illinois transgender woman says abuse has continued in female lockup facility

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UPDATE (10/18/19, 11:30 am): This article has been updated to include a response from the Illinois Department of Corrections.  

An Illinois transgender woman said in a motion this month that mistreatment she experienced at several male prison facilities due to her gender identity has continued, despite her transfer in April to a women’s prison.

The prisoner, Janiah Monroe, was moved to the Logan Correctional Center earlier this year after she brought a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Corrections contending sexual harassment and mistreatment at each of the three men’s prison facilities she had been housed in since 2009.

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Monroe was one of several transgender women that were openly mocked or demeaned by Illinois correctional staffers in two private Facebook groups, an Injustice Watch review of the online comment threads revealed.

The more than two dozen correctional staffers participating in those private Facebook group conversations included officers, sergeants, and lieutenants from across the state, including some that appear to be employees at the women’s prison where Monroe is currently housed. The staffers who participated in the troubling online conversations referred to transgender women prisoners as “it” and “he,” and disclosed personal and medical information about inmates in state custody.

In the motion filed this month, Monroe requested an order from a federal judge prohibiting the department from transferring her out of a women’s facility, releasing her from restrictive housing that she said has kept her isolated, and requiring an end to verbal harassment by department staff.

Monroe said in a statement submitted to the court that she has been repeatedly misgendered by staff at the Logan Correctional Center who have referred to her as “it” or “whatever the f___ you are.” In the statement, she described having constant thoughts of suicide as a result of her extreme isolation.

“The social isolation and lack of human interaction are crushing and damaging to my mental health,” Monroe said in the statement.

Since her move to the women’s facility, Monroe has spent the majority of time in segregation or administrative detention, housing restrictions that left her in solitary confinement or in living arrangements that severely limit any interaction with other prisoners, the motion states.

The department, according to the motion, had placed Monroe on restrictive housing as she was under investigation after allegations were brought against her by other inmates. Nearly all of the allegations of misconduct have been proven false, the motion states.

In June, according to the motion, prison officials unexpectedly attempted to transfer Monroe back to the Pontiac Correctional Center, the male facility she was housed in previously. After being loaded into a van for transport, Monroe was brought back into the Logan facility, the motion states. The incident was “extremely traumatizing” for Monroe, according to the motion, who felt that a transfer back to Pontiac would have been a “death sentence.”

Logan’s former Warden, Glen Austin, acknowledged in a separate court deposition the Monroe’s transition to the women’s facility had not been smooth. She he had acted at times in a very “non-effeminate way,” Austin said, having fists clenched or speaking in a loud, angry voice, which was contrary to how another transgender woman behaved after her transfer to the facility.

“[Austin] has also admitted that the problems Ms. Monroe has encountered at Logan are a result of sex stereotyping—that she would at times act in an “aggressive” manner and that she was not always sufficiently ‘effeminate,’” the motion states.

Elizabeth Mazur, one of the prisoner’s attorneys, said Monroe’s situation has remained the same since the motion was filed earlier this month. The department is expected to file a response early next week.

A spokeswoman from the Illinois Department of Corrections said the department cannot  comment on pending litigation.