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Prison guards are mocking trans inmates and sharing their personal information in private Facebook groups

Emma Powys Maurice October 18, 2019
Strawberry Hampton, the trans inmate who was granted a rare transfer to a women's prison

Strawberry Hampton, a trans inmate in Illinois who was finally transferred to a women's prison in February this year. (MacArthur Justice Center)

At least 25 Illinois prison employees participated in online conversations that mocked, demeaned or disclosed personal and medical information about transgender inmates, an investigation has found.

A report by Injustice Watch and BuzzFeed News revealed that extreme transphobic comments were posted by a range of corrections staff in two private Facebook groups, each with more than 4,000 members.

The degrading posts were written by low-level officers, sergeants, lieutenants, and other correctional staffers — including a counsellor and a parole officer — from across the state.

Members of the group also outed LGBT+ inmates and openly discussed private information about them, including alleged sexual acts and medical treatments they received.

Many posts reference a then-incarcerated transgender woman, Strawberry Hampton, who was transferred to a women’s facility.

Hampton was repeatedly misgendered in the Facebook groups, but we have corrected this in the following comments so as not to cause offence.

Strawberry Hampton reported continual assaults while detained in a men’s prison (Supplied by Uptown People’s Law Center)

“I’ve seen this motherfucker with a beard. The state is stupid I’d chop [her] pecker off for [her] then [she] can be ‘female,'” wrote correctional officer James Schaefer.

Another correctional officer, Kenneth Mottershaw, added: “Know [sic] matter way you look at it, it’s a freak’n male inmate. Transgenders are a fucking joke in my view.”

“O hope this ‘it’ is paying all legal fees!” wrote another officer, Richard Glazik.

“Hell, give [her] clemency….then the state can stop paying for the dumb bastard’s hormones and psych meds,” wrote a further correctional officer.

The comments emerged amid a series of lawsuits against the Illinois Department of Corrections, including a class-action claim brought by six transgender women.

Among them is Strawberry Hampton, who filed two lawsuits alleging abuse and mistreatment. She accuses prison officials of consistently refusing to acknowledge her gender and repeatedly and deliberately placing her in environments detrimental to her physical, mental and emotional health.

The offensive posts continued even after three correctional officers were put on leave following a September Injustice Watch report about ‘homophobic’ posts on public Facebook pages.

Department of Corrections, Cook County, Chicago, IL (Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group/Getty)

When this report was shared in one of the private Facebook groups, correctional food service supervisor Scott Evans replied: “So I can’t say I’m anti-transgender????? Well guess what… I am very much so!”

Both groups⁠ are named “Behind the Walls,” but with different spellings of “Illinois Department of Corrections”. In one, members are warned that “snitches will be permanently banned from the group. No warnings, no second chances: zero tolerance.”

After a Buzzfeed reporter confronted the department on the Facebook posts, officials said they do not tolerate bigotry.

In a statement, Illinois Department of Corrections Acting Director Rob Jeffreys said the department is “firmly dedicated to fostering a culture of tolerance, inclusion, and respect in our correctional facilities.”

None of the named Facebook commenters responded to Buzzfeed News’ requests for comment.

Transgender inmates are at extreme risk of rape and violence

Unfortunately this investigation is only the latest example of trans inmates being mistreated in prison facilities.

In the US about 3,200 inmates identify as transgender, and almost 40 percent report being sexually assaulted in prison, according to the ACLU.

Nearly a third of trans inmates are placed in solitary confinement, mostly because they are vulnerable to attacks from other inmates, particularly if they are housed in facilities that do not match their gender.

The City of New York is currently embroiled in a lawsuit regarding the death of Layleen Polanco, a transgender woman who was found dead in her cell in the notorious Rikers Island jail on June 7.

 

 

 

More: Department of Corrections, Illinois, Layleen polanco, Strawberry Hampton, Trans inmates

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