The Illinois Department of Corrections moved a transgender woman from a men’s prison into a women’s prison. The move happened over a year after the inmate filed a lawsuit against the agency claiming she was a target for repeated sexual assaults, taunting, and beatings.
Strawberry Hampton, 27, was moved to Logan Correctional Center, a women’s prison. She is serving a 10-year sentence for burglary.
“Strawberry has been standing up and telling the truth about what she survived. She’s been speaking out at great risk to herself. When she comes to court and tells her story of sexual violence of abuse and harassment, she then has to go back to the very prison where she suffered that kind of abuse,” said Sheila Bedi, one of Hampton’s lawyers. “The kind of courage and strength that has taken for her to do over and over again for a year is unthinkable to us.”
While the transfer is good, Bedi said, the legal battle will continue.
“Ms. Hampton is thrilled with this outcome. She believes she should have been in a women's prison since she entered the IDOC. But we are still very concerned that the other trans women who are at IDOC custody will be at risk,” she said.
According to the lawsuit, Hampton claims corrections officers verbally, sexually, and physically abused her, and other inmates beat her. She said officers forced her to have sex with her cellmate for their entertainment.
IDOC spokeswoman Lindsey Hess said in a statement that Hampton’s case was “carefully considered” before making the transfer. But that IDOC hasn’t changed its policy.
“The IDOC considers the unique needs of transgender offenders when determining their housing placements. There have been instances in recent years when the Department has assigned a transgender woman to a female facility.”
Prison officials can assign transgender inmates to women’s prisons, but it doesn’t happen often. The Associated Press reported, based on 2016 data, there were no transgender prisoners in Illinois’ two female prisons. There were 28 in the state’s male prisons.
María Ines Zamudio covers city immigration for WBEZ. Follow her @mizamudio.