A 26-year-old transgender woman in Chicago has made a bizarre request to the prison where she is serving a 10-year sentence for burglary.
Deon "Strawberry" Hampton filed a lawsuit asking for a transfer from the male prison where she is held to a female prison where she says she will be less vulnerable to abuse. Prison officials have authorized the transfer of transgender inmates to a prison of the opposite sex in the past but it is very rare.
Federal data from 2016 showed there were no transgender prisoners in Illinois' two female prisons but there were 28 in the state's 24 male prisons. Hampton claims in the lawsuit she has been regularly singled out for brutal treatment at the high-security prison in southern Illinois, Menard Correctional Center.
A U.S. magistrate judge began an evidentiary hearing in Hampton's case Friday in Benton making it the first hearing of its kind. The hearing is expected to last several days and is focused on Hampton's gender identity and on whether she could pose a risk to female inmates if she was allowed to transfer to a female prison.
During her time at male prisons, Hampton claims guards made her and another transgender inmate perform sex acts on each other as the guards hurled slurs and mocked them. She also says once she was transferred to the higher security Menard prison, guards warned her they would retaliate if she raised complaints about guards.
Hampton also claims that being in a male prison has damaged her physiologically since she can't wear her hair or nails long saying, "I feel inhuman." Surveys conducted on the topic of transgender inmates in prisons do support claims that transgender inmates are at a greater risk of abuse.
Illinois Department of Corrections lawyers argued that since Hampton hasn't had a sex reassignment surgery she is a greater risk to women if she would be moved to a female prison. To counter this claim, Hampton's defense argued that she has low testosterone levels to due to previous hormone treatments and was "functionally chemically castrated."
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