An inmate at Illinois’ largest women’s prison says she was raped by a transgender inmate who was transferred into her housing unit last year, and claims Illinois Department of Corrections officials conducted a “sham investigation” to help cover up the incident.
In a federal lawsuit filed last week, a Jane Doe inmate at the Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois said that after being sexually assaulted in June 2019, she was coerced by a supervisory officer into denying the attack took place and then punished for filing a “false” complaint under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).
The suit names Logan’s acting warden Beatrice Calhoun as a defendant, along with officers Brent Keeler and Todd Sexton.
“The transfer of transgender inmates from male to female prisons has been a contentious policy within IDOC,” the plaintiff’s Peoria-based attorneys wrote in a five-page complaint. “In an attempt to justify the transfers, Defendants Sexton, Calhoun, Keeler and currently other unknown IDOC employees covered up the sexual assault of Plaintiff and tried to falsely classify it as consensual, to keep it from being considered a PREA violation.”
Two transgender inmates who were housed in men’s prisons, Strawberry Hampton and Janiah Monroe, have sued IDOC separately in recent years, demanding they be moved to Logan because they’d allegedly been the target of sexual harassment and abuse from male inmates and prison employees. Alan Mills, who leads the Uptown People’s Law Center – a Chicago-based legal group, which has represented both Hampton and Monroe – confirmed Monroe is the inmate who is being accused in this case, though he was dismissive of the allegations against her.
An IDOC spokeswoman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
According to the new lawsuit, Monroe, who is identified as a transgender inmate who “identifies as female, but still has male genitalia” was moved into the plaintiff’s housing unit on June 18, 2019, and immediately began “express(ing) an interest” in the plaintiff.
“Plaintiff was terrified of this inmate as the inmate was much bigger and stronger than Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff had also heard that this inmate had assaulted prior cellmates and had been convicted of murder.”
That same day, the plaintiff said she was raped by Monroe – whose name is not included nor listed as a defendant in the complaint.
Following the incident, the plaintiff was moved into the prison’s Health Care Unit, where she was interviewed by internal affairs officers, according to the complaint. The following day, she was interviewed by Sexton, who allegedly told her “that he did not believe her and he pressured Plaintiff to say there was no sexual assault.”
The plaintiff said she was “coerced into providing this statement” and filed a grievance with IDOC soon after regarding that interview. She was then relocated about 40 miles away to the Decatur Correctional Center.
Two months later, according to the complaint, she learned IDOC had determined she committed a “major infraction” for allegedly filing a false PREA complaint. That led to months of continued punishment during her continued incarceration, the complaint states.
Mills said he was aware of the allegations against Monroe, but noted that IDOC had deemed the plaintiff’s claims unfounded.
“Our understanding is the Department of Corrections investigated this incident and found that it was consensual sex, not rape,” he said. “So the underlying claim here, I think, is without merit.”
Mills said his client has faced similar accusations of sexual harassment since she was moved to Logan last April, though this was the first he was aware of to include a specific allegation of rape. He said the other cases have similarly been unfounded and claimed Monroe has been targeted due to transphobia.
“A deeper point here is that since Ms. Monroe was transferred to Logan, she’s made a lot of friends and has found substantial support among other prisoners and some staff,” he said. “But transphobia exists everywhere, both out here on the street and in prison, so it’s not surprising that there are some people who feel uncomfortable with her presence in a women’s prison.”