Transgender inmate asks Illinois gov. for clemency after retaliation

Strawberry Hampton (Photo courtesy of UPLC)
Strawberry Hampton (Photo courtesy of UPLC)

CHICAGO — A transgender woman who had to sue to be transferred to a women’s prison is now asking Gov. J.B. Pritzker for clemency.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Thursday that Strawberry Hampton had asked the governor for clemency, alleging abuse from guard and retaliation for complaining about the abuse.

Strawberry Hampton sued department of to be moved in 2018. She had requested the move for more than a year, but the IDOC rejected the pleas and kept her at men’s prisons. 

The MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center filed the first in a series of federal lawsuits in 2017 seeking an order to protect Strawberry Hampton from repeated sexual assaults and harassment by correctional officers. In November 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Rosenstengel ordered IDOC to re-evaluate its denial of Hampton’s request for transfer to a women’s prison, and ordered IDOC to develop training on transgender issues for all staff.

The Sun-Times reported that Hampton, 28, was supposed to be released from Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln in February. Her supporters, however, told the newspaper that she’s been barred from programs that would have helped her earn time off for good behavior and that staff have issued false disciplinary reports that stopped her from being released earlier this year.

“Strawberry deserves to be free. She fought with strength and courage for over two years to be free from sexual violence and to have the IDOC recognize that she is a woman,” said Vanessa del Valle of the MacArthur Justice Center in a press release. “In return, she received repeated retaliation which unfairly extended her sentence for over nine months. She is being kept behind bars because she is a trans woman who survived unspeakable abuse and stood up for her rights.”

Sheila Bedi, one of lawyers representing Hampton, told the paper that Pritzker could issue the clemency tomorrow if he wanted to.

“There is a clear and all too common hypocrisy in Strawberry’s case—IDOC simultaneously refused to acknowledge her gender, and at the same time restricted and caused her harm based on her gender,” said Alan Mills of Uptown People’s Law Center.

Hampton is serving a 10-year sentence for residential burglary, the newspaper reported. Her new release date is Nov. 27, according to a letter written in support of her clemency petition.

According to the Sun-Times, more than 30 organizations are seeking immediate action “to correct this grave injustice and allow Ms. Hampton to be home with her community so she can continue her leadership for the rights of trans people and survivors everywhere.”