Forced to strip and beaten – Horrific testimony from a trans woman in a male prison
Strawberry Hampton, a 26-year-old transgender woman currently incarcerated in a men’s prison in Illinois, is seeking help from the federal court, after facing verbal, physical and sexual abuse from the prison staff.
She was initially imprisoned at Pinckneyville Correctional Center in autumn 2016, where she was the victim of horrific harassment and assault.
Her representation say Hampton was ordered her to strip to her underwear and forced her to perform sexual acts with her cellmate for the officer’s’ entertainment.
Testimonies from inmates report seeing Hampton having her clothes cut off with a knife and being beaten by multiple officers.
“Several officers forcefully slammed this inmate on the concrete slab onto his face, and began physically assaulting this inmate, by putting their knees in his back, and forcefully cutting and ripping his clothes off with a shiny object,” one inmate testified.
“I heard offender Hampton yelled out multiple times ‘Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me, I’m not resisting, please don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me,’ another said.
“The CO shouted ‘shut up b*tch, you fucking f*ggot, this is what happens when you call PREA.’”
As well as physical assault, she is treated as a man, using her legal name, and subject to awful derogatory sexual comments about her body, appearance, and sexuality.
She said the COs cut off her hair when she tried to grow it long and cut up her bra and refused to give her another.
When she filed complaints, she was sent to solitary confinement for three months, all the while still being harassed and abused. She slept in a room covered in urine and faeces, with filthy sheets, without running water or a mattress.
She was denied access to her transgender support group, as well as basic privileges such as showers and medical attention. Her food was also withheld, and she lost 35lb.
“Correctional officers control every aspect of her life and in reporting her abusers, Strawberry demonstrated incredible bravery,” Vanessa del Valle, counsel for the plaintiff, said.
“Once they learned of her complaints, instead of protecting Ms. Hampton, prison officials tried to silence and punish her. Not only that, but IDOC has repeatedly discriminated against her because she is a trans woman, denying her access to programming and services. These clear-cut violations of her federal rights require urgent action.”
When Hampton continued to file reports of her abuse, she was punished, until she gained so many false disciplinary tickets that she was transferred to Menard Correctional Center, a high security men’s prison, in August 2017.
Before even arriving at Menard’s she was physically abused by staff, beaten and choked on the bus on the way, and was immediately put into solitary confinement on arrival.
She is currently sentenced to solitary confinement until April 2018.
Hampton has identified as female since childhood and has lived as a woman her entire life. She began hormone treatment in July 2016.
Her lawyers and her psychiatrist believe that her experiences as a woman in a male prison are causing her extreme dysphoria, distress, anxiety, and depression, telling her psychiatrist “I feel inhuman.”
They believe the psychological damage caused may be lifelong.
“Strawberry’s story demonstrates the realities of prison life for many trans women,” Sheila Bedi, one of her attorneys, said.
“At this moment, when countless women in the free world are coming forward to tell their stories of sexual abuse with the #metoo hashtag, Strawberry has been thrown into solitary confinement and subjected to further abuse for speaking her truth about sexual violence.”
“The ‘me too’ movement must create space for imprisoned survivors of sexual abuse. Our hope is the court will take immediate action to protect her, and will house her with other women where she can be protected from further abuse.”
They want Hampton to be moved to Logan Correctional Center, a women’s prison, for the remainder of her sentence, to hold accountable the officers who carried about the abuse, and to sanction higher authorities who allow such abuse to occur, including the lawsuit also the director of the IDOC, and warden of Menard.
They say First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments have been violated, as has the Illinois Hate Crimes Act, Title IX and the Institutionalized Person Act.
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“Illinois prisons are violent places where coercion and the use of force are routine. But even viewed against this background, the treatment of Strawberry was nothing short of barbaric,” Alan Mills of the Uptown People’s Law Center, co-counsel on the case, said.
“Gendered bigotry should not be tolerated anywhere in society, but least of all in our prisons, which are supposed to be places of law.”
Actress Laverne Cox, who plays a transgender inmate on Orange is the New Black, has spoken out about the treatment of trans prisoners, particularly solitary confinement, which has been categorised as a form of psychological torture.
“There are transgender people all over the country who are incarcerated, who are spending most of their time in solitary confinement. That is the way in which most trans people are housed in prison,” she said.