April 3, 2019

Illinois Dept. of Corrections Moves Trans Woman to Women’s Prison

SPRINGFIELD, IL – After suffering repeated sexual and physical assaults inside Illinois men’s prisons, Janiah Monroe, a 29-year old transgender woman, has been transferred to a women’s prison. Her transfer marked the second time in recent months that a trans woman has won a transfer to a woman’s prison following the filing of a lawsuit by the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center.

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) transferred Monroe to Logan Correctional Center on Monday, more than a year after she first requested IDOC move her to a woman’s prison and five weeks after the filing of a lawsuit asking a federal court to order the transfer to protect her from further abuse and harassment from IDOC employees and prisoners.

Held in Illinois men’s prisons for the past decade, Monroe’s gender dysphoria is so severe that she has attempted self-castration more than once and has made several suicide attempts. In addition, male prisoners have threatened her with sexual violence and harm to her family, and correctional staff conducted invasive and inappropriate pat-downs with officers touching her breasts, buttocks, and genitals. (Monroe is incarcerated under the number Y35508.)

In late December of 2018, Strawberry Hampton, a transgender woman also represented by the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center, was moved from an all-male prison to Logan Correctional Center. She also had suffered repeated abuse and sexual assaults in various male prisons.

“For well over a year, Janiah waited to see if IDOC would follow the law, protect her from sexual abuse and harassment, and house her in the women’s division,” said Vanessa del Valle of the MacArthur Justice Center. “She filed her lawsuit in February after IDOC ignored her pleas for help. It is our hope that IDOC’s decision to transfer Janiah without protracted litigation suggests that the department might be taking seriously its obligation to protect trans women from sexual violence. But there are many more Janiahs in IDOC custody. Until IDOC overhauls its policies and procedures and until staff is effectively retrained, trans women in IDOC custody remain at great risk for sexual violence and abuse.”

“We are glad that Janiah has been moved to a prison where she has a chance to be safe. We look forward to the day when every prisoner can feel safe in all of Illinois’ prisons. The Uptown People’s Law Center is committed to continuing to work to ensure that Janiah, other trans women, and all Illinois’ prisoners are protected and receive the medical and mental health care they need,” said Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People’s Law Center.