A federal judge has opened the door for a transgender woman housed in segregation at a prison in Dixon to potentially be moved to an all-female facility.
In an order entered Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Rosenstengel said the Illinois Department of Corrections’ Transgender Care Review Committee must consider all evidence for and against transferring 27-year-old Strawberry Hampton to a women’s facility. The department has previously rejected her request to move.
Rosenstengel also gave the department 14 days to tell the court how it plans to train all correctional staff on transgender issues.
And the judge allowed Hampton, 27, to attend a transgender support group while in segregation.
One of Hampton’s lawyers, Alan Mills, says Rosenstengel’s order is “in and of itself a victory” because Hampton was allowed to testify on her own behalf.
“The hope is that the department will take the judge’s order seriously and anyone who sees the evidence will move to transfer,” Mills said. “We view this as only the beginning not the end.”
Illinois Department of Corrections officials did not respond to requests for comment.
The order is the latest in Hampton’s legal battle to be moved to a women’s prison. In March, she filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Corrections and, in July, her lawyers filed a complaint that renewed her case to be moved to an all-female prison.
In the complaint, Hampton says her rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, have been violated.
Hampton, who is currently incarcerated at the Dixon Correctional Center, says that while she was at Pickneyville and Menard Correctional Centers — both male prisons — guards “sexually assaulted her and forced her to have sex with her cellmate for their entertainment” and she was also abused by other detainees.
A spokeswoman previously said in a statement that the department “maintains a strict zero tolerance policy toward all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment” and all “allegations of sexual abuse and harassment are taken seriously and investigated.”
Hampton started transitioning when she was 5 years old, according to the March suit. She started taking hormones in July 2016 and her testosterone level is “virtually nil and she is chemically castrated,” the suit says.
Hampton wants to be removed from segregation and is seeking a transfer from Dixon to the Logan Correctional Center, a women’s prison in Lincoln, Ill. The move would make her one of the first transgender women to be granted a transfer to an all-female prison in Illinois.
Hampton is also seeking an unspecified amount in damages.