CHICAGO — Lawyers for a transgender woman held at the Pontiac men's prison have filed a lawsuit asking that she be moved to a women's facility, and an end to alleged sexual assault and harassment she has experienced for a decade.
Janiah Monroe has attempted suicide multiple times and also tried to harm herself in other ways while housed in men's prisons, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Peoria by the Uptown People's Law Center and Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center in Chicago.
In a statement from her lawyers, the inmate identified as Andre Patterson by the Illinois Department of Corrections, said, "I have been sexually assaulted at every men's prison that IDOC put me into, including by IDOC staff. It's time for IDOC to recognize my gender and take responsibility for keeping me safe. As long as I'm in a men's prison, IDOC can never protect me from sexual assault."
Monroe's anticipated release date is March 2051 on Cook County attempted murder and attempted aggravated arson charges and several aggravated battery charges involving prison staff.
In the lawsuit alleging sexual violence inside the prison system against Monroe, Monroe's attorneys ask that she be transferred to a women's prison and receive adequate mental health services for the remainder of her sentence.
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"Guards using coercion and unnecessary force is, sadly, widespread in Illinois prisons. But trans women in men's prisons suffer this abuse more frequently, and at times with deadly consequences. Gendered bigotry shouldn't be tolerated anywhere, but least of all in our prisons, which are supposed to be places of law," said Alan Mills, of Uptown People's Law Center.
Monroe's 2017 request for transfer to a women's prison was denied.
IDOC spokesperson Lindsey Hess declined to comment on the pending litigation. On the issue of housing for transgender inmates, Hess said the agency "carefully considers housing assignments and works with a committee comprised of medical, mental health and security professionals when making placements for transgender offenders."
The lawsuit follows a ruling last year by a federal judge ordering the IDOC to review its denial of Strawberry Hampton's request to be transferred to a women's facility. The state also was ordered to develop training for correctional officers on transgender issues. Hampton, who alleged she was sexually abused in prison, was moved to Logan Correctional Center in December from the men's prison in Dixon.