In a ruling that lawyers called "historic," a federal judge ordered that Illinois Department of Corrections ( IDOC ) review the case of Strawberry Hampton, a 27-year-old transgender woman who is being-held in a male-only detention facility downstate.
Hampton, currently an inmate at Dixon Correctional Center, has been seeking a transfer to a female facility, maintaining that she has been subjected to extensive physical, verbal and sexual abuse at Dixon and elsewhere. She has been housed at four different male detention facilities over the past two years; according to court documents, she described the experience as being a "sex slave."
Judge Nancy Rosenstengel of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Illinois ordered Nov. 7 that IDOC had two weeks to present steps that it will take to ensure that Dixon staff be trained on transgender-related issues; that Hampton be allowed to attend a transgender support group while she is segregated from other prisoners; and that the Transgender Care Review Committee "considers all evidence for and against transferring Hampton to a women's facility."
Rosenstengel denied a request that del Valle be released from segregation.
Vanessa del Valle, a co-counsel for MacArthur Justice Center, which is litigating the case along with Uptown People's Law Center, said that this ruling marks the first time that a federal judge has acknowledged that trans prisoners have constitutional protections, both from discrimination and for personal safety.
"While we didn't get the [immediate] relief we were seeking, the judge ordered them to review the case closely," del Valle said, noting that Hampton had not even been interviewed by Dixon or IDOC officials until now. "In the interview, they should be able to determine not just what is best for Strawberry, but also what is best for IDOC."