Prisons are inherently dangerous places, in no small part because of the near unlimited power of prison guards and officials.

When prison personnel are allowed to operate without oversight, they may be emboldened to use coercion and punishment to retaliate against prisoners who dare to challenge their absolute authority.

For transgender women, prison is torture

Transgender prisoners are victimized at rates nearly ten times those for prisoners in general. The federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) recognizes that, “Being transgender is a known risk factor for being sexually victimized in confinement settings.”

PREA also mandates that transgender prisoners be assigned to male or female housing on a case-by-case basis that gives “serious consideration” to the prisoner’s sense of where he or she would be safest. Yet jails and prisons around the country, including the Illinois Department of Corrections, have not only allowed trans prisoners to be put in unsafe conditions, they have actively encouraged and aided in abuse and assault.

That’s why we’ve gone to court.


Latest Developments

September 12, 2018

Preliminary Injunction Hearing for Ms. Strawberry Hampton Scheduled

August 14, 2018

Another lawsuit filed on behalf of Ms. Strawberry Hampton, who continues to face transphobic abuse and harassment from Illinois Department of Corrections officials.

Key Cases

Smith v. Sachse, et al.


The MacArthur Justice Center filed a lawsuit against various employees of the Missouri Department of Corrections after their clients were retaliated against for accessing the prison grievance process, conferring with counsel regarding conditions of their confinement, and pursuing legal action to protect their constitutional rights.

Kissinger v. LeBlanc

Freedom of Expression and Belief

The MacArthur Justice Center represented William Kissinger, a prisoner at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola who experienced retaliation from prison officials after speaking with a journalist investigating prison conditions. A settlement was reached that returned Mr. Kissinger to Angola, wiped his disciplinary record and restored his previous rights and privileges.

Hampton v. Illinois Department of Corrections


Strawberry Hampton is a 28-year-old transgender woman who is incarcerated within the Illinois Department of Corrections. Ms. Hampton has survived numerous sexual assaults and received constant harassment and threats in men's prisons, where she spent the majority of her sentence. IDOC officials have consistently refused to acknowledge Ms. Hampton’s gender and have repeatedly and deliberately placed her in environments detrimental to her physical, mental and emotional health.

Tay Tay v. Illinois Department of Corrections


This case illustrates IDOC’s policy of disregarding gender dysphoria and assigning placement and housing decisions entirely on the gender assigned at birth. This policy is in direct contrast to the policies and best practices put forth by the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Because IDOC receives federal funds, Illinois prisons are required to adhere to PREA...