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Transgender inmate requests transfer to all-female prison; alleges abuse by guards, other inmates

A transgender inmate wants to transfer to an all-female prison. (stevanovicigo/Getty Images)

A transgender inmate serving a 10-year sentence for burglary in Illinois wants to transfer to an all-female prison, according to published reports.

Deon “Strawberry” Hampton, 26, says she’s seeking the transfer because she is subject to “sexual assault, taunting, and beatings” in male prisons, the Associated Press reported.

Has this ever happened before?

A “first of its kind” evidentiary hearing on the matter began Friday before a U.S. magistrate judge. The hearing will help determine whether to grant the transfer.  At issue is whether Hampton, who is biologically a man, would pose a risk to female inmates.

In a lawsuit filed by her attorneys, Hampton alleges that guards and fellow inmates subjected her to brutal treatment. The allegations relate to her time at the Menard Correctional Center, a high security prison in southern Illinois, and the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, the Associated Press reported.

Hampton alleges that Pinckneyville prison guards made her and another transgender inmate perform sex acts on each other. While looking on, the guards laughed and hurled insults at them, the report states.

At Menard, a higher-security prison, a guard allegedly warned Hampton they would retaliate against her for the complaints she made about Pinckneyville.

Hampton has said she also feels uncomfortable in the male prison because she can’t wear long hair or maintain long fingernails. Hampton said she is “devastated,” in a filing by her attorneys from the MacArthur Justice Center in Chicago and the Uptown People's Law Center.

"I feel inhuman," she reportedly said.

Are such transfers allowed?

Prison officials are allowed to transfer transgender inmates to female prisons, although it is rare, the Associated Press reported. In 2016, there were no transgender prisoners in the two female prisons in Illinois, the report states. There were 28 transgender inmates in the state’s 25 male prisons.

Other data suggests that transgender inmates are more likely to face abuse. Nationally, 40 percent, or 1,280 of the nation’s 3,200 transgender inmates in state or federal prisons, have accused other inmates and guards of sexual misconduct, according to the Associated Press. That compares to about four percent of the general inmate population.

One of Hampton’s witnesses, clinical psychiatrist George Brown, has indicated that Hampton displays traits of someone who believes they are female. Hampton has identified as female since age 5, according to the report.

Brown also said Hampton poses to rise to women because hormone treatments have essentially left her “functionally chemically castrated."

A decision on the transfer request expected in several weeks, according to the Associated Press.

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