A trans woman prisoner has been transferred to a female prison in Illinois after a year-long court battle.
Deon ‘Strawberry’ Hampton described being treated like a ‘sex slave’ while housed in multiple in male penitentiaries over several years.
Hampton, 27, has now been moved to the Logan Correctional Center, a female penitentiary located around 160 miles southwest of Chicago.
‘We are thrilled,’ said Vanessa del Valle, one of the lawyers representing Hampton, the Chicago Tribue reports.
‘Strawberry has waited a long time for this transfer. She has been battling for a year in court to have (the Illinois Department of Corrections) recognize her as a woman and protect her from the constant abuse and discrimination in men’s prisons,’ del Valle added.
Years for sexual and physical abuse
Over the past four years, Hampton has been incarcerated at four different facilities for men while serving a 10-year sentence for a burglary charge.
She alleged having suffered from years for sexual and physical abuse from both prisoners and staff.
In one instance, she said prison officers threatened she would ‘disappear’ if she discussed the details of the abuse. She also reportedly suffered death threats from other inmates.
Hampton had filed multiple lawsuits against the state in order to transfer to a female prison.
In response to her recent lawsuit, a judge ruled that all prison staff in Illinois would have to undergo additional training on trans issues in November.
Hampton also has several other lawsuits pending against prison officers who she claims either abused her or failed to protect her from abuse.
Trans prisoners in the US
Correctional facilities in the US continue to struggle with how to adequately accommodate trans inmates.
Prisoners are still on their biological rather, than assigned, gender, and while legally permitted, it is highly uncommon for trans prisoners to serve custodial sentences in female prisons.
In 2016, no trans women were housed in female prisons in Illinois, while over two dozen were in male penitentiaries, according to federal data.
Studies have found that trans prisoners continue to suffer from high rates of physical and sexual abuse.
According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, one in four inmates reported being physically assaulted by inmates and/or staff, and one in five said they had been sexually abused.
The survey also said that trans inmates were five times more likely to be sexually abused by prison officials, and nine times more likely to be sexually assaulted by other inmates, compared to the rest of the incarcerated population.
Fighting systemic issues
Trans inmates have also suffered setbacks under the current US government, which has come under fire for what equal rights advocates perceive as systemic discrimination against the trans community.
President Donald Trump has rolled back Obama-era legislation aimed at protecting the rights of trans prisoners, after several female inmates in Texas filed a federal lawsuit arguing that being incarcerated with trans inmates was a potential danger to other prisoners and violated privacy rights.
The Trump administration received widespread backlash in October after a leaked memo from the Department of Health and Human Services said that the government planned to restrict the definition of sex to genitalia at birth, a move trans rights advocates said would ‘legally erase’ transgender people in the US.
Equal rights groups further condemned the White House for repeatedly attempting to enforce a ban on trans people serving in the US military.