Transgender Woman Seeks Transfer After Accusations of Physical And Sexual Abuse In Male Prisons

A transgender woman who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Illinois for burglary is now seeking a rarely granted transfer to a female prison after enduring sexual assault, taunting, and beatings in male prisons.

Deon “Strawberry” Hampton said she filed a lawsuit last year asking to be transferred after receiving brutal treatment from guards and fellow inmates at the southern Illinois Menard Correctional Center and at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, AP reported.

The 26-year-old said while she was at Pinckneyville prison, she allegedly said the guards made her and other transgender inmates perform sexual acts on one another as the guards laughed and threw insults at them.

Hampton also argues that she is unable to wear her nails or hair long, and cannot represent herself as a female in the male prison. She has also said it is psychologically devastating, according to one of her lawyers at the Chicago based MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center.

On Friday, a U.S magistrate judge began a first-of-its-kind evidentiary hearing in Hampton’s case in St. Louis, Missouri to assist the court in deciding if there should be a transfer. The hearing will take several days and will be focused on Hampton's gender identity and if she poses a risk to female inmates if she is moved.

Allowing a court to decide where to send Hampton and other transgender inmates "would directly interfere with the operations of the (department) in a situation where Plaintiff is merely attempting to manipulate the system," Illinois Department of Corrections lawyers argued in a filing.

The state filing doubts Hampton’s accounts of abuse by the guards and her gender identity, alleging that Hampton told prison health workers that she never claimed to be transgender and said she “was ok with being male.”

Clinical psychiatrist George Brown, a key witness to Hampton’s case, said in a declaration to the court before Friday's hearing that Hampton has identified as female since she was 5-years-old and shows all the features of someone convinced of their identity as a female. He also said to the court that Hampton is not a greater risk to women just because she hasn’t had sex reassignment surgery, saying these views “conflicts with all reliable medical literature.”

A decision on the transfer request isn't expected for several weeks

Data shows that transgender inmates are at a greater risk for abuse. The Justice Department data estimates there were over 3,200 transgender inmates in state and federal prisons as of 2012. Forty percent of transgender inmates reported being victims of sexual misconduct by other inmates and guards, compared to 4 percent of the general prison reporting such abuse.

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