News and Commentary

Biologically Male Transgender Inmate Moved To Women’s Facility After Yearlong Legal Battle

On Thursday, attorneys for 27-year-old Deon “Strawberry” Hampton announced that their client, a biological male who identifies as a female and is serving a ten-year prison sentence for residential burglary, would be transferred from a men’s correctional facility to a women’s correctional facility.

Hampton filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) in late-November 2017, demanding to be moved to a women’s prison following 16 months of hormone therapy.

The lawsuit alleged that Hampton was the target of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of correctional officers at multiple facilities — first at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, then at Menard Correctional Center. The lawsuit also claimed that when Hampton “reported this abuse [at Pinckneyville], the officers retaliated” with beatings and “false disciplinary charges … that resulted in segregation time and [the] transfer to Menard.”

The lawsuit argued that a failure to transfer Hampton to a women’s facility would amount to a violation of the plaintiff’s 14th Amendment rights:

The IDOC houses all non-transgender women in women’s prisons, but forces the Plaintiff, a transgender woman, to be housed with men, merely because of the sex stereotypes associated with her assigned birth.

As to the fact that Hampton still possesses male genitalia and might therefore pose a threat to biological female inmates, the lawsuit quoted a psychiatrist who is an alleged “expert in providing transgender healthcare.” He claimed that because of the ongoing hormone therapy, Hampton “is functionally chemically castrated.”

After further legal issuances and allegations of abuse, Hampton was transferred twice — first to Lawrence Correctional Center, then to Dixon Correctional Center, both of which are men’s facilities.

In late-December, Hampton won the fight against the Illinois Department of Corrections and was transferred to Logan Correctional Center, a women’s facility.

The MacArthur Justice Center’s Vanessa del Valle, one of Hampton’s attorneys, released a statement saying that she is “thrilled” by the victory, adding:

Strawberry has waited a long time for this transfer. She has been battling for a year in court to have (the Illinois Department of Corrections) recognize her as a woman and protect her from the constant abuse and discrimination in men’s prisons.

Hampton’s legal battle appears to have had a ripple effect. The Chicago Tribune reports: “A federal judge last month ordered training on transgender issues for all corrections staff statewide in response to Hampton’s lawsuit. Officials have said plans for training were underway.”

The Associated Press notes that according to recent data, Hampton may be the only biological male housed in a female correctional facility in the state of Illinois.

Hampton was represented by the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center.

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