Illinois Department of Corrections officials this week approved the transfer of a transgender inmate from an all-male prison to a women’s prison after she repeatedly claimed she’d been the victim of sexual harassment and abuse.
Janiah Monroe, 29, was moved Monday from the Pontiac Correctional Center in Livingston County to the Logan Correctional Center, a facility located about 30 miles northeast of Springfield. The move comes just over a month after she and attorneys from the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center filed a lawsuit pushing for the transfer.
“We are glad that Janiah has been moved to a prison where she has a chance to be safe,” Uptown People’s Law Center Executive Director Alan Mills said in a statement. “We look forward to the day when every prisoner can feel safe in all of Illinois’ prisons.”
Monroe – who was born Andre Patterson – says she’s been subjected to “constant sexual harassment” inside men’s prisons over the past decade, which has resulted in several mental health crises including multiple suicide and self-mutilation attempts.
Her attorneys say she has been diagnosed with PTSD, which has been exacerbated by “extreme distress and physical harm” inside the prison. Her lawsuit lists several sexual assault incidents allegedly perpetrated both by fellow inmates and prison staff over the course of multiple years.
In 2014, Monroe claims a prisoner threatened to harm her family if she didn’t perform sexual acts with him. A year later, a corrections officer allegedly coerced her into performing oral sex. And as recently as this year, one of Monroe’s fellow inmates at Pontiac threatened to beat and rape her if she did not have sex with him, according to her lawsuit.
“Even though (Monroe) is only 29 years old, she wonders how long she will stay alive in prison, and she thinks often of ending her life,” her attorneys wrote in their lawsuit prior to the transfer.
Monroe 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.
An IDOC spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. But online records indicate Monroe is now an inmate at Logan.
This is the second time in recent months that IDOC officials have agreed to transfer a transgender inmate into a women’s prison. In December, Strawberry Hampton – who is incarcerated under the name Deon Hampton – was moved to Logan following a similar lawsuit also brought by the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center.
Despite the success of their recent lawsuits, Monroe’s attorneys believe there are many more transgender inmates who need protection.
“It is our hope that IDOC’s decision to transfer Janiah without protracted litigation suggests that the department might be taking seriously its obligation to protect trans women from sexual violence,” Vanessa del Valle of the MacArthur Justice Center said in a statement.
“But there are many more Janiahs in IDOC custody. Until IDOC overhauls its policies and procedures and until staff is effectively retrained, trans women in IDOC custody remain at great risk for sexual violence and abuse.”