A transgender woman who is currently serving a 10-year sentence for burglary in an Illinois prison has been granted a rare transfer to a female prison after she alleged abuse against her person. Deon "Strawberry" Hampton, 27, was only granted the move after a yearlong legal battle with the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).
According to ABC News, Hampton "requested the transfer on grounds she'd be less vulnerable to the sexual assault, taunting and beatings she was subjected to in male prisons." Federal lawsuits had been filed on Hampton's behalf by the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People's Law Center in Chicago as she battled resistance from the IDOC.
Hampton, from Chicago, was moved in the last week from an all-male prison in Dixon, in northern Illinois, to the women's Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois. The IDOC released a statement on the matter on Thursday insisting that that had "carefully considered Hampton's housing placement before making the transfer."
They also believe they maintain "100 percent compliance with the national standards" which is designed "to protect all inmates from sexual abuse."
Part of the lawsuit detailed Hampton's allegations of abuse as well as her inability to wear her hair or nails long while in the all-male prison, which was damaging to her psychologically.The IDOC initially tried to cast doubt on her identity as a woman, insisting in one filing that she "was OK with being male." In addition, they suggested that Hampton could be a risk to other female inmates if she was moved to a female facility, due to not yet having received sex reassignment surgery.
However, clinical psychiatrist George Brown insisted during a declaration made in federal court that Hampton had identified as female since the age of five. He also insisted that Hampton being a risk to other female inmates "conflicts with all reliable medical literature" on the matter.
Currently, Hampton is the only transgender female inmate currently serving time in a female prison. However, the IDOC did reveal that there had been instances of transgender women serving in female prisons in the past. They declined to comment on who these women were, though. As ABC News points out, there are currently 28 transgender women serving time in male prisons in Illinois, according to data supplied from 2016.
One of Hampton's attorneys, Vanessa del Valle, saw the transfer as a victory for transgender rights. However, she still criticized the IDOC for the "systemic failures" that quite often lead to the abuse of transgender inmates.
"The fight for Strawberry and for all trans women in IDOC has only just begun," del Valle said.
The IDOC found their hand was forced in the matter regarding Hampton's transfer from an all-male prison after "a federal court that found Hampton had a strong case that her equal-protection rights were violated," according to ABC News. It is believed this is only the second case to receive such a ruling in the country by a federal court.