Re­forms or­dered for trans­gen­der in­mates

Re­sponse to 2018 law­suit filed against cor­rec­tions of­fi­cials

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Angie Leven­tis Lour­gos eleven­[email protected]­bune.com

A judge has man­dated sweep­ing re­forms of the treat­ment of trans­gen­der in­mates in all Illi­nois pris­ons.

A fed­eral judge has man­dated ma­jor re­forms of the treat­ment of trans­gen­der in­mates in all Illi­nois pris­ons, in­clud­ing an end to “me­chan­i­cally as­sign­ing hous­ing based on gen­i­talia,” phys­i­cal size or ap­pear­ance, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

The court or­der is­sued Thurs­day by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Rosen­sten­gel comes in re­sponse to a 2018 class-ac­tion law­suit filed against Illi­nois De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tions of­fi­cials on be­half of five in­car­cer­ated trans­gen­der women claim­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment of gen­der dys­pho­ria, an in­tense dis­tress due to a mis­match of bi­o­log­i­cal sex and gen­der iden­tity.

“This is a sweep­ing vic­tory for our clients, who have been sub­ject to un­speak­able harm by a de­part­ment of cor­rec­tions that has truly been de­lib­er­ately in­dif­fer­ent to our clients suf­fer­ing,” said Ghirlandi Guidetti, Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Illi­nois staff at­tor­ney, in a writ­ten state­ment.

Cor­rec­tions of­fi­cials have un­til Jan. 22 to no­tify the court of steps taken to fol­low the judge’s di­rec­tives, ac­cord­ing to the or­der. A spokes­woman said the agency could not com­ment on pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion.

The or­der also re­quires the de­part­ment to craft poli­cies al­low­ing trans­gen­der pris­on­ers “med­i­cally nec­es­sary so­cial tran­si­tion,” which in­cludes in­di­vid­u­al­ized hous­ing de­ci­sions, avoid­ance of cross-gen­der strip searches and pro­vid­ing ac­cess to “gen­der-af­firm­ing cloth­ing and groom­ing items.”

A “trans­gen­der com­mit­tee” within the cor­rec­tions de­part­ment is no longer per­mit­ted to make de­ci­sions about med­i­cal treat­ment of gen­der dys­pho­ria; in­stead, cor­rec­tions of­fi­cials have to en­sure those de­ter­mi­na­tions are made by qual­i­fied med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, court doc­u­ments say. The de­part­ment must also stop its prac­tice of “deny­ing and de­lay­ing” ap­pro­pri­ate hor­mone ther­apy, ac­cord­ing to the or­der.

In the law­suit, five trans­gen­der women claimed in­ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment while housed in mul­ti­ple Illi­nois pris­ons, of­ten de­scrib­ing se­vere men­tal health is­sues stem­ming from un­treated gen­der dys­pho­ria. Plain­tiff Ja­niah Monroe, who iden­ti­fied as fe­male since she was a child grow­ing up on Chicago’s South Side, waited roughly three years for hor­mone treat­ment dur­ing in­car­cer­a­tion, and it was only pro­vided af­ter sev­eral self-cas­tra­tion and sui­cide at­tempts, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

The plain­tiffs were also rep­re­sented by at­tor­neys from Kirk­land & Ellis LLP, King & Spald­ing

LLP and Kennedy Hunt, PC.

The court-or­dered re­forms in Illi­nois come as the na­tion strug­gles with trans­gen­der rights in pris­ons, jails and other de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2018 rolled back var­i­ous pro­tec­tions for trans­gen­der in­mates in fed­eral pris­ons that had been estab­lished dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. New guide­lines use bi­o­log­i­cal sex as the ini­tial de­ter­mi­na­tion for hous­ing, and gen­der iden­tity would only be used in rare cases, the Fed­eral Bu­reau of Pris­ons’ Trans­gen­der Of­fender Man­ual states. The change fol­lowed a 2016 fed­eral law­suit in Texas, where sev­eral fe­male in­mates com­pared shar­ing hous­ing with pris­on­ers who are trans­gen­der to “cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment.”

The Chicago-based Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion in 2018 urged prison and jail sys­tems to adopt poli­cies al­low­ing trans­gen­der in­mates to be housed in fa­cil­i­ties based on their gen­der iden­tity. The group noted that trans­gen­der pop­u­la­tions re­port higher rates of vi­o­lence dur­ing in­car­cer­a­tion, cit­ing a study of Cal­i­for­nia pris­ons where 59% of trans­gen­der in­mates ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual as­sault com­pared with a lit­tle over 4% of the over­all prison pop­u­la­tion.

“Sup­port the abil­ity of trans­gen­der pris­on­ers to be placed in fa­cil­i­ties, if they so choose, that are re­flec­tive of their af­firmed gen­der sta­tus, re­gard­less of the pris­oner’s gen­i­talia, chro­mo­so­mal make-up, hor­monal treat­ment, or non-, pre-, or post­op­er­a­tive sta­tus,” the or­ga­ni­za­tion said in a writ­ten state­ment.

The Illi­nois De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tions came un­der fire for its treat­ment of trans­gen­der in­mates in 2018, when Rosen­sten­gel had man­dated agency of­fi­cials de­velop train­ing on trans­gen­der is­sues for all staff statewide.

That di­rec­tive was in re­sponse to a law­suit by Straw­berry Hamp­ton, a trans­gen­der in­mate from Chicago’s South Side who de­scribed be­ing treated like a “sex slave” while housed in men’s pris­ons across the state, claim­ing abuse by cor­rec­tions staff and fel­low in­mates.

In late 2018, the de­part­ment granted Hamp­ton’s re­quest for a rarely is­sued trans­fer to a women’s prison in align­ment with her gen­der iden­tity. Hamp­ton, who was re­leased from prison in July, had de­scribed dras­tic im­prove­ments in her phys­i­cal safety and men­tal health once she was housed at a fa­cil­ity for women.

“At the end of the day, I’m safe here, I feel good,” she had told the Tri­bune in Jan­uary, shortly af­ter her ar­rival at Lo­gan Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter, a women’s prison in cen­tral Illi­nois. “I don’t have to worry about some­one try­ing to at­tack me for be­ing a woman.”

AR­MANDO L. SANCHEZ/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Straw­berry Hamp­ton was re­leased from prison in July. She de­scribed in a law­suit be­ing treated like a “sex slave” as a trans­gen­der in­mate in men’s pris­ons, claim­ing abuse by both cor­rec­tions staff and fel­low in­mates.

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