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Transgender detainee continues fight for transfer to all-female prison

The Dixon Correctional Center in 2001. File Photo.

A transgender woman currently incarcerated at the Dixon Correctional Center is renewing her push for a transfer to an all-female prison, alleging that she suffered physical and sexual abuse from guards and male detainees.

Strawberry Hampton, who was born Deon Hampton, filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Correction in March.

On Wednesday, 27-year-old Hampton’s lawyers filed a complaint to that lawsuit addressing why she should be moved.

Hampton, of Chicago, is currently serving a 10-year sentence for residential burglary.

Hampton previously sued Pickneyville and Menard Correctional Centers, which are both male prisons. Before being transferred to Dixon, Hampton was incarcerated at the Lawrence Correctional Center, in Sumner, Il.

At all those facilities, Hampton said she suffered abuse. She alleges guards “sexually assaulted her and forced her to have sex with her cellmate for their entertainment.” She also says she was verbally harassed by guards and physically and sexually abused by other detainees at Menard.

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 started transitioning when she was 5 years old, according to the suit. She started taking hormones in July 2016 and, according to the suit, her testosterone level is “virtually nil and she is chemically castrated.”

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, Il. The move would make her one of the first transgender women to be granted a transfer to an all-female prison.

Hampton is also seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

Alan Mills, one of Hampton’s attorneys, said her mental health has deteriorated and she has attempted suicide because of the poor treatment,.

“The effects of everything she’s been through have caused a dramatic deterioration in her well being,” Mills said. “Before this she wasn’t on mental health drugs, but shortly after being harassed diagnosed with bipolar. Instead of getting better she’s gotten worse.”

In a statement, Lindsey Hess, spokeswoman for the state’s department of corrections, said 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.”

“While incarcerated within the IDOC, offender safety is paramount,” the statement read. “The Department maintains 100% compliance with the national standards of the Prison Rape Elimination Act as determined by certified independent privately contracted auditors. The Department carefully considers housing assignments and the unique needs of offenders who identify as transgender.”