July 18, 2018

IDOC Enables and Encourages Sexual Assaults and Harassment Targeting Trans Woman

CHICAGO – New claims against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) were filed on behalf of Strawberry Hampton, a prisoner currently held at Dixon prison. Among other things, the lawsuit seeks emergency relief and demands that IDOC protect Ms. Hampton from further abuse and immediately transfer her to Logan Correctional Center (a women’s prison).

Ms. Hampton (incarcerated under the name Deon Hampton) is a 27-year old transgender woman. IDOC has transferred her to four different men’s prisons over the past year.  In each facility she has endured numerous sexual and physical assaults, and received constant harassment and threats. IDOC officials have consistently refused to acknowledge Ms. Hampton’s gender identity and have repeatedly and deliberately placed her in environments detrimental to her physical, mental and emotional health.

Officers have sexually harassed Ms. Hampton, threatened her, and subjected her to verbal and physical abuse. They also forced her to have sex with her cellmate for their entertainment. When Ms. Hampton reported this abuse, officers retaliated against her and  gave her false disciplinary tickets, resulting in her being placed in solitary confinement for extended periods of time. At Dixon prison, officers gave Ms. Hampton a false ticket and pepper sprayed her in the face while she rolled up in to a ball on the floor and cried, then gave her two more tickets for “failing to cooperate with officers.”

Fellow prisoners have groped her breasts and buttocks, kissed her, and threatened to rape and stab her. Prison officials have not protected Ms. Hampton from these individuals, and instead have continually targeted her for punishment, calling her derogatory terms such as “faggot,” “it,” and “he-she.”  As a result of these conditions, Ms. Hampton has, on multiple occasions attempted to end her own life.

According to Ms. Hampton, “With the support of my family I’m finding the strength to fight for my own life. I want my fight to help protect all the other transwomen locked up in IDOC. Life is hell for all of us in here.”

“IDOC Officials have long been on notice that Ms. Hampton lives under the constant threat of sexual and physical violence yet they allow her to endure assault after assault and insist on housing her in men’s prisons despite the serious harm she experiences every day. We have repeatedly attempted to settle these claims out of court, but IDOC simply refuses to offer Ms. Hampton any meaningful protection. This emergency motion is her only recourse and her only hope of escaping this abuse,” said Vanessa del Valle of the MacArthur Justice Center.

Twice before, Ms. Hampton filed for emergency relief from the courts. Each time, IDOC agreed to transfer her and the emergency motions were withdrawn by her counsel. After each transfer, Ms. Hampton’s circumstances improved for a few days or weeks, but then deteriorated in violation of her constitutional rights.

“It’s now clear that, IDOC can’t or won’t keep Ms. Hampton safe in a men’s prison, and the only possible solution is moving her to a women’s prison. Because of IDOC’s refusal to protect her, we are forced to return to the courts. The way Ms. Hampton has been treated is clearly cruel and unusual punishment,” said Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People’s Law Center.

The lawsuit, filed by the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center, describes Ms. Hampton’s constant harassment and abuse by officers, mental health staff, and prisoners since early January 2018. It details violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Illinois Hate Crimes Act.