Trans­gen­der in­mate is granted rare trans­fer

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News -

A trans­gen­der wo­man serv­ing a 10-year sen­tence in Illi­nois for burglary has been moved from a men’s to a women’s prison in what could be a first for the state, her lawyers an­nounced Thurs­day.

De on“Straw­berry” Hamp­ton , 27, was moved after a year­long le­gal bat­tle and re­sis­tance from the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions.

Hamp­ton, of Chicago, re­quested the trans­fer in 2017 on grounds she’d be less vul­ner­a­ble to the sex­ual as­sault, taunt­ing and beat­ings she was sub­jected to in male pris­ons, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral law­suits filed on her be­half by the MacArthur Jus­tice Cen­ter and the Up­town Peo­ple’s Law Cen­ter in Chicago.

She was moved within the past week from an all-male prison in Dixon, in north­ern Illi­nois, to the women’s Logan Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter more than 100 miles away in cen­tral Illi­nois, her lawyers said.

The IDOC’s hand was forced last month by a fed­eral court that found Hamp­ton had a strong case that her equal-pro­tec­tion rights were vi­o­lated. Her lawyers said it was only the sec­ond such rul­ing in the coun­try by a fed­eral court.

One of her at­tor­neys, Vanessa del Valle, hailed the trans­fer as a vic­tory for trans­gen­der rights. But she added that the IDOC still hasn’t fixed “sys­temic fail­ures” that lead to abuse of trans­gen­der in­mates.

The IDOC con­firmed the trans­fer in a brief Thurs­day state­ment, adding that the agency “care­fully con­sid­ered Hamp­ton’s hous­ing place­ment be­fore mak­ing the trans­fer.” In pre­vi­ous court fil­ings, the IDOC said one con­cern was that Hamp­ton would pose a risk to fe­male in­mates if moved.

Hamp­ton de­scribed how guards and fel­low in­mates reg­u­larly sin­gled her out for bru­tal treat­ment at Me­nard Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter in south­ern Illi­nois and ear­lier at Pinck­neyville Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter. While at the Pinck­neyville prison, she al­leged guards made her and another trans­gen­der in­mate per­form sex acts on each other as guards hurled slurs and laughed.

Un­able to com­fort­ably rep­re­sent her­self as fe­male in the male prison — where she couldn’t wear her hair or nails long — was dev­as­tat­ing psy­cho­log­i­cally, ac­cord­ing to one fil­ing from her lawyers.

While prison of­fi­cials in most states do have the op­tion of as­sign­ing male-tofe­male trans­gen­der in­mates to women’s pris­ons, it hap­pens in­fre­quently. The lat­est avail­able fed­eral data from 2016 in­di­cates there were no trans­gen­der fe­male in­mates in Illi­nois’ two fe­male pris­ons; there were 28 trans­gen­der women in the state’s 24 male pris­ons.

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