US – As an increasing number of states across the country cave under mounting social and legal pressure from activist organizations that are fighting for biologically male inmates to be placed in women’s facilities, a flurry of male prisoners in the US have demanded access to women’s prisons under the changing laws.

Janiah Monroe
Inmate Janiah Monroe, who killed his cellmate with his bare hands during an argument, has been moved to women’s prison after claiming that other men cause him to feel unsafe. (Credit: Illinois Department of Corrections)

Janiah Monroe, aged 29 and previously named Andre Patterson, recently won his battle against the state of Illinois to be granted access to a women’s prison. Mr Monroe’s rap sheet includes convictions for second-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery and attempted aggravated arson.

At age 17, Mr Monroe strangled to death Kimani Muhammad, his 31-year-old male jail cell mate, during an argument. At the time of the homicide, Mr Monroe was being held on suspicion of aggravated battery with a firearm after shooting two people outside a barber shop.

The violent felon says he was subjected to “constant sexual harassment,” and feared for his life over the decade he spent in men’s prison. Responding to Mr Monroe’s pleas, MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center filed a lawsuit demanding that Mr Monroe be transferred to a women’s facility. Illinois complied, moving the prisoner from Pontiac Correctional Center to Logan on April 1.

Kanautica-Zayre-Brown
Kanautica Zayre-Brown, previously known as Kevin Chestnut. (Credit: North Carolina Department of Public Safety)

Similarly, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina attorney Sneha Shah declared about the case of her client, career felon Kanautica Zayre-Brown: “She is being housed in an all-male prison in Harnett County, that she is forced to shower amongst men openly, not given any privacy to change or to shower. She is forced to sleep amongst men.” The situation is causing “escalating distress” to the 37-year-old habitual offender, his attorney says, though Zayre-Brown admits he has never been attacked by other inmates.

The ACLU gave no word on whether female inmates would or should be afforded the privacy to change, sleep and shower away from the biologically male Mr Zayre-Brown. Female inmates are survivors of sexual abuse at such high rates that researchers have speculated that sexual abuse may be a “pathway to prison” for women. Many female inmates suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders, depressive disorders and substance use disorders as a result of  history of sexual trauma. In addition, female inmates are routinely sexually terrorized by male guards at what Amnesty International USA described as “crisis” rates. Social justice organizations have taken little action on this issue, while seeking to cage the vulnerable women in with male people.

In Mr Zayre-Brown’s case, the ACLU threatened to file a lawsuit against North Carolina if the state did not move him to a women’s facility by the organization’s arbitrary deadline. 500 individuals, including representatives of various activist groups, signed a petition that was delivered to Governor Cooper.

On March 28, Mr Zayre-Brown was given his own cell at Warren Correctional Institution in Manson, a men’s facility. Department of Public Safety spokesperson John Bull said the “eventual goal” is “moving Zayre-Brown to a female facility.” The convict was named Kevin Chestnut before he was granted a legal name change, a wig and cosmetic surgeries.

Deon "Strawberry" Hampton
Deon “Strawberry” Hampton (Credit: Illinois Department of Corrections)

As with convicted murderer Janiah Monroe, 27-year-old male convict Deon Hampton, who now goes by the moniker “Strawberry,” was transferred to Logan Correctional Center following a grueling legal battle. Mr Hampton says he suffered sexual abuse from guards and fellow inmates while serving a 10-year sentence for residential burglary. Mr Hampton was moved to the women’s facility on December 28, 2018. Released from prison on July 8, he vows to fight “for everyone that was done like me.”

Mr Zayre-Brown, hoping to share the good fortune of Mr Hampton and Mr Monroe, says all he wants is “fairness”: “I am a female,” he claims. “I am going to be treated as a female. I want the state to recognize me as a female and treat me accordingly.”

“There are many more Janiahs in IDOC custody,” Vanessa del Valle of the MacArthur Justice Center said in a statement that some women’s advocates find threatening due to its implications for female inmates. “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.”

Vanessa del Valle
Vanessa del Valle, left, and at right with client Strawberry Hampton, successfully fought for male murderer Janiah Monroe to be moved to a women’s prison. (Courtesy: Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, l.; MacArthur Justice Center, r.)

The fear of women’s advocates like Sheila Jeffreys that men could become the dominant population in women’s prisons seem plausible. Currently, only 6.8 percent of inmates in the US are women. Most of these women are incarcerated for property crimes. Meanwhile, 21 percent of men who identify as transgender women have spent time in prison or jail, compared with five percent of the rest of the population.

In UK prisons, 48% of transgender inmates are sexual offenders. The UK’s policy of allowing inmates to choose their sex and be housed accordingly had to be partially reversed in February after several biologically male transgender inmates sexually attacked imprisoned women.

Sneha Shah

ACLU Staff Attorney Sneha Shah is defending the right of a man, Kanautica Zayre-Brown, to enter women’s prison. Zayre-Brown identifies as a woman.

UPDATED Thursday, July 9, 2019 11:02 PM Coordinated Universal Time (UTC): Added information about Strawberry Hampton’s release.

Read more on this story

Transgender woman moved to Illinois’ women’s prison
ABC 11 Eyewitness News
RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — A dozen advocates representing several local rights groups and hundreds of people delivered a letter to Governor Cooper Friday morning, calling on him to take action in the case of Kanautica Zayre-Brown, a female transgender inmate at the Harnett Correctional Institution.

State moves transgender inmate, but not to women’s prison
WRAL
RALEIGH, N.C. — Activists demanded Monday that a transgender inmate be moved from an all-male prison to a state facility that houses women, with the American Civil Liberties Union threatening a lawsuit if the move isn’t made.

17-year-old inmate charged with murder after argument
Chicago Tribune
A 17-year-old Cook County Jail inmate was charged with first-degree murder Wednesday for allegedly strangling his cellmate after the two were heard arguing in their cell in a maximum-security wing.

Transgender woman moved to Illinois’ women’s prison
Heart of Illinois ABC
LINCOLN, Ill. (HOI) — The Illinois Department of Corrections has approved the transfer of another transgender woman to a female facility in Lincoln.

Transgender inmate seeks transfer to female prison after claims of abuse involving guards
Chicago Tribune
A 26-year-old transgender woman serving a 10-year sentence in Illinois for burglary is seeking a rarely granted transfer to a female prison where she says she’ll be less vulnerable to the kinds of sexual assault, taunting and beatings she’s been subjected to in male prisons.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Absolutely horrifying.

    The US is the only place in the world where male-on-male rape is considered part of the ‘standard punishment’ when men are imprisoned. Now this is spreading to female prisons there- and in other countries- as well.

    I don’t look forward to the adoption of these ‘progressive’ policies by countries like Germany with prison nurseries. The people who advocate for them will care no more for the rape of innocent children by these sexual perverts, than they do for women forced to live with them.

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  2. But if a woman (a biological female who identifies as female) is sexually assaulted by a trans woman (a biological male who identifies as female) is that a lesbian matter among women?

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    • No. A biological male who identifies as a female is a man. It is not a “lesbian matter,” as rape is not an act of sex or love but an act of violence, hatred and domination. It is a man raping women, putting women at risk of further psychological trauma, physical trauma and pain, pregnancy and STDs.

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    • This is an excellent point. Yes prison officials kn the UK are trying to play that game. In fact, crimes committed by transwomen (men who identify as women) are now classified in the UK & in the US as crimes committed by women. This has caused the violent crime rate among women to rise dramatically. So transwomen want to listed as transwomen when a crime is committed against them but then want to be listed as women when they commit violent crime.

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  3. It is lost on me why the Centre for American progress would highlight the fact that transgender people go to prison a lot more than others and 40 times as often as women.

    It’s hard for the police to discriminate against anyone because not that many people have contact with the police. My only contact with the police is at breathalyser testing stops and when I went into a police station to report to minor accidents.

    Many other people come into contact with the police as a result of civilians reporting a cry that could be murder or robbery or burglary.

    Surprisingly little contact with the police is that the initiative of the police. They are usually responding to 911 calls and other reports of crime

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  4. ” Currently, only 6.8 percent of female inmates in the US are women. ”

    Just a tip, I think the “female” is not supposed to be there in this sentence unless things are much crazier than I think 🙂

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