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Transgender woman released after retaliation for suing Illinois for prison transfer

Strawberry Hampton (Photo courtesy of UPLC)

CHICAGO — Strawberry Hampton, who had to sue the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to be moved to a women’s prison, was released this week. Hampton was kept in prison five months after her release date.

Hampton, a transgender woman, sued the IDOC in 2018 to be moved to a women’s prison after being the target of abuse from guards and other inmates. The Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC) and the MacArthur Justice Center, which represented Hampton in her lawsuit and in her clemency effort, say that she was kept in prison beyond as retaliatory punishment for reporting sexual abuse.

She was transferred to a women’s prison at the very end of 2018.

“Fear of retaliation from prison officials is why many prisoners do not come forward when their rights are abused. The threat of retaliation is very real, as proved in Strawberry’s case, where her sentence was extended in retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment. We are thrilled to see Strawberry free,” said Alan Mills of UPLC.

After she reported her abuse to IDOC, officials falsely accused her of disciplinary infractions and extended her sentence by nine months. IDOC further discriminated against Hampton by prohibiting her from participating in programs to earn “good time,” sentence reductions awarded to prisoners for good behavior. Hampton was repeatedly told by prison officials that, as a trans woman, she could not work or attend classes with men because her presence would allegedly cause disruption. Her original release date was Feb. 16, 2019. She filed for clemency in May 2019.

“Strawberry’s story is all too common in today’s criminal justice system. She endured unrelenting harassment, violence and neglect. And yet, she stood up and fought back,” said Vanessa del Valle of the MacArthur Justice Center. “She continued to fight tirelessly for over two years to be free from the abuse and have IDOC recognize her as a woman, even enduring additional punishment as a result. We hope that others look to Strawberry’s case and continue to demand fairness and equity for trans women behind bars.”

The UPLC said that this is only the second case in the country in which a federal court has recognized that a prison’s decision to house a transgender woman in a men’s prison is a form of unlawful discrimination.

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