BENTON — After about six hours of negotiations, Strawberry (Deon) Hampton, the transgender Menard Correctional Center inmate who is suing the Illinois Department of Corrections for alleged abuses, reached a settlement in one of her cases Tuesday and will be transferred Wednesday to a new facility.
Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center, said he and his team came prepared for the second day of a preliminary injunction hearing in one of Hampton’s civil federal cases when representatives from IDOC came to them with an offer.
“With the judge’s help, we spent the day negotiating and seeing if we could resolve this case without a decision by the judge,” Mills said.
Hampton is currently serving a 10-year sentence for burglary.
Hampton was involved in two federal lawsuits against the IDOC and a list of correctional officers over abuses she alleges she suffered at the Pinckneyville Correctional Center as well as Menard. The suit against Menard contains more than 12 counts, including violating the equal protection clause, excessive force, cruel and unusual punishment, and violating the Illinois Hate Crime Act.
BENTON — During a preliminary injunction hearing Friday at the Benton Federal Courthouse, a transgender Menard Correctional Center inmate made…
The abuses Hampton said she endured were, in her eyes, because of her status as a transgender woman.
Hampton made her case Friday during the first day of the injunction hearing for temporary relief while her suit went through the court system. During her testimony, Hampton alleged she suffered several incidents of abuse at the hands of corrections officers — verbal and physical.
Hampton recalled an incident at Pinckneyville where she and her cellmate were taken from their cell by officers and told to dance for the men. She said she was also told to have phone sex with one officer and forced to put her mouth on the penis of another.
After being taken to Menard, the abuse didn’t stop. She and other inmates testified on Friday that Hampton was dragged from her cell after requesting medical assistance, only to be returned in worse shape than when she left. She and other inmates also testified that it was open knowledge that the guards had put out a “honeybun hit” on her — inmates would be rewarded by guards for hurting her and those she associated with, Hampton alleged.
“The most important thing has always been Ms. Hampton’s safety. That’s why we put this on an emergency track. She felt that she was very much at risk at Menard and we felt that the evidence that went on (Friday) established that she was at great risk if she were to stay at Menard,” Mills said.
He said she has been housed in a health care facility, and will be until her transfer Wednesday to the Lawrence Correctional Center in Sumner.
Mills said he hopes the facilities at Lawrence will better suit Hampton’s needs.
“I know that there are other transgender women at Lawrence, so I’m hoping that they will have the sort of materials she and other transgender women need,” he said.
Mills said the settlement reached also outlines that within 60 days the Gender Identity Disorder Committee will meet and review whether Hampton is appropriately placed, review the mental health care she is getting, and make decisions on where she will stay for the duration of her sentence.
Hampton and her legal team have retained the right as part of the settlement to again sue IDOC based on any noncompliance with the agreed upon terms, Mills said. He also said they still plan to go ahead with the lawsuit over the abuses at Pinckneyville.
While Tuesday’s settlement does not set a legal precedent, Mills said he hopes it informs future IDOC decisions regarding other transgender inmates.
“We hope the Department of Corrections through this process has learned that they have to pay more attention to transgender issues and that they have to do the sort of assessment on an individualized basis that is required by federal law,” Mills said.
Legal council for IDOC declined comment for this report.