Transgender inmate who sued over alleged abuse released from prison

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A transgender woman who launched a legal battle with the Illinois Department of Corrections over alleged abuse while she was incarcerated was recently released from prison.

Deon Hampton, 28, was serving a 10-year sentence for burglary. Hampton, who goes by "Strawberry," was released after only serving five and half years. She said her time behind bars was traumatic.

"Me being beaten, stomped on, my clothes sliced off with a knife, me being kicked all over my face and body, it was a traumatizing experience," Hampton said.

Hampton said she was verbally, physically and sexually abused by prisoners and guards because she is transgender.

Hampton said she has identified as a female since she was 5 years old, but the Illinois Department of Corrections refused to recognize her identity. She was placed in correctional facilities for men, including Menard Corrections Center Department, one of Illinois' most dangerous prisons.

"Right now, their default policy is to house transgender individuals based on their assigned sex at birth," said Vanessa Del Valle, who is Hampton's Attorney.

Del Valle with the MacArthur Justice Center stepped in for what became a long legal battle to get Hampton placed in a women's prison. After being transferred four times to men's prisons, Hampton was finally placed at Logan Correctional Center for the last six months of her sentence.

"They treated me like a regular woman, when some inmates tried calling me like an f**** or man, they said no, she is a woman she is here with you all," Hampton said.

While Hampton is enjoying her freedom, she plans to join her attorney in the fight to allow transgender prisoners to be placed in the right prison.

"There are serious safety concerns at issue and if the state is choosing to lock someone up they have an obligation to protect them," Del Valle said.

In Strawberry's Hampton's legal case, a federal judge ordered the Illinois Department of Corrections staff to undergo extensive training on transgender issues.
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