Story at a glance

  • The lawsuit Monroe v. Baldwin resulted in a court order supporting transgender inmates’ civil rights.
  • Now, inmates will be able to choose their location based on their gender identity.
  • Prisons will also undergo sensitivity training for correctional officers, allow hormone therapy and issue more reforms.

An Illinois court ruled that state prisons must undergo massive overhauls in how they process, book and incarcerate trans people.

This court order, issued by Judge Nancy Rosenstengal, is a result of a class action lawsuit filed in February 2019, Monroe v Baldwin. The plaintiff, Janiah Monroe, alleged that she has been incarcerated in the men’s prison since she was 19 years old, despite identifying as a woman. 

Represented by the ACLU, Monroe, along with four other female plaintiffs, say that they have been sexually harassed by both fellow inmates and the correctional staff and were denied medical treatment for gender dysphoria, thus the Illinois Department of Corrections violated the Eighth Amendment that guarantees no cruel or unusual punishments. 

Gender dysphoria is defined as a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which they identify. It can cause severe emotional distress, such as depression and anxiety. 

“This is a sweeping victory for our clients, who have been subject to unspeakable harm by a Department of Corrections that has truly been deliberately indifferent to our clients’ suffering. We look forward to ensuring that [Illinois Department of Corrections] complies with the order without any delay so that all prisoners who have gender dysphoria in Illinois will receive humane and professional treatment,” said Ghirlandi Guidetti, one of the attorneys representing Monore. 

The court ruling further states that prisons must honor an inmate’s preferred gender identity and to stop “cross-gendered strip searching in prison, and orders more training for prison employees.”

The court order will also allow free access for hormone therapy to transgender inmates, as well as provide materials to help prisoners’ social transitions that include clothing and grooming advice.  

As of April 2019, Monroe was moved to a women’s correctional facility. 

Published on Dec 27, 2019