A transgender inmate held in an all-male prison in Illinois is pushing for a transfer to a women’s facility, claiming she has been the victim of constant sexual harassment and abuse.
Attorneys representing Janiah Monroe, a 29-year-old inmate at the Pontiac Correctional Center, filed a federal lawsuit this week against Illinois Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin in an effort to “protect (her) from further abuse and harassment from IDOC employees and prisoners.”
“I have been sexually assaulted at every men’s prison that IDOC put me into, including by IDOC staff,” Monroe said in a statement. “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 says she’s been “subjected to constant sexual harassment” inside the prison, which has resulted in several mental health crises – including multiple suicide and self-mutilation attempts.
Attorneys from the Uptown People’s Law Center and MacArthur Justice Center, which filed the suit on Monroe’s behalf, say she has been diagnosed with PTSD, which has been exacerbated by “extreme distress and physical harm” inside the prison.
“She is not safe in men’s prisons,” they say in a 22-page complaint.
Pontiac is a maximum-security facility in Livingston County with a total population of more than 1,100 prisoners, though some of those are held in a medium-security center.
Monroe’s attorneys say she began her current stay there late last year, but was previously housed there from 2010 to 2016. Throughout that time, Monroe has claimed to be the victim of multiple sexual assaults, including being groped and threatened into unwanted sex.
In one recent incident, another Pontiac prisoner threatened to “beat and violently rape (Monroe) if she did not have sex with him,” according to the complaint.
Her attorneys say Monroe should be moved to the Logan Correctional Center – an all-female facility located about 30 miles north of Springfield – which they believe is better suited to handle their client’s “suffering from trauma disorders and gender dysphoria.”
Monroe, who was born Andre Patterson, entered the IDOC prison system in January 2008 following convictions on several felonies including second-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery and attempted aggravated arson. She has a projected parole date of 2051 and discharge date of March 2054.
The transfer request comes about two months after IDOC agreed to move another transgender prisoner into Logan. Strawberry Hampton, who was also represented by the Uptown People’s Law Center and MacArthur Justice Center, was granted the transfer after filing a similar lawsuit a year prior.
IDOC spokeswoman Lindsey Hess said at that time her department “carefully considered Hampton’s housing placement before making the transfer.”
Hess declined comment on Monroe’s lawsuit, but again stated IDOC “carefully considers housing assignments and works with a committee comprised of medical, mental health and security professionals when making placements for transgender offenders.”