A transgender prisoner has said she finally feels “safe” after she was recently transferred to a women’s prison after serving time in four men’s prisons.
Strawberry Hampton’s transfer was granted after she filed a lawsuitagainst the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) documenting allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by both prison guards and inmates in men’s prisons.
“At the end of the day, I’m safe here, I feel good,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t have to worry about someone trying to attack me for being a woman.
“The women here accepts me all the way. When I’m walking down the hall, everybody hug me, everybody scream my name. They treat me like a regular woman.”
Hampton also told the Chicago Tribune that, when she arrived at the women’s prison, the warden took her aside and told her she was wanted there, and that she could “thrive.”
Life as a transgender woman in men’s prisons was ‘very scary’
The violence she experienced in three separate men’s prisons in Illinois before her transfer caused her to self-harm and attempt suicide. She told the Chicago Tribune that it was “very scary” and “mentally and emotionally draining.
“Why should I hide who I am?”
“You got no help, you got nobody to protect you. The people that’s supposed to protect are the ones that’s hurting you,” she added.
She also revealed that most inmates in the women’s prison didn’t know she was transgender, but she decided to tell them anyway, saying: “Why should I hide who I am?”
Hampton is scheduled for parole in November 2019 and she hopes for a life “free of abuse” when she gets out of prison.
In a lawsuit last year, Hampton said that she had been made to feel like a “sex slave” while serving time in men’s prisons.
She said she had been abused on various occasions while serving the 10 year sentence for burglary.
In the distressing lawsuit, she claimed that an officer once pulled down her shorts and asked what genitalia she had.
She also claimed that she was forced to have phone sex with a lieutenant and that a group of officers had made her and another inmate engage in sexual acts for their own entertainment.
In the last prison she was incarcerated in, she alleged that she was assaulted by other inmates.
Hampton has identified as female since she was just five years old and began hormone therapy in 2016 as a part of her transition.
Her case led to a federal judge ordering that prison officials be trained in transgender issues in Illinois.
“The fight for Strawberry and for all trans women in IDOC has only just begun.”
– Strawberry Hampton’s lawyer, Vanessa del Valle of the MacArthur Justice Center
Her lawyer, Vanessa del Valle of the MacArthur Justice Center said after Hampton’s transfer had been approved that she had fought every day to live a life “free from sexual violence and to have the IDOC recognise that she is a woman.”
She added: “This transfer, which occurred after a year of hard fought litigation and two emergency hearings, is a victory for her and a testament to her strength and courage. But IDOC has done nothing to remedy the systemic failures that created the persistent harm Strawberry has endured since she entered IDOC custody. The fight for Strawberry and for all trans women in IDOC has only just begun.”