An inmate who claims he has been cross-dressing since age 14, filed a federal lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Corrections alleging he is being sexually harassed by correctional officers.
Seeking $2.8 million in punitive damages, Harry Edwards alleges correctional officers "intentionally, knowingly and with forethought and malice severely violated" his constitutional rights under the fifth, eighth, and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution after reading his psychiatric evaluation.
Edwards is currently serving a seven year sentence for drug possession at Southwestern Correctional Center -- the old Assumption High School -- in East St. Louis.
He claims the DOC failed to discipline correctional officers for sexual harassment and retaliated by denying him work release.
According to Edwards, he was diagnosed with recurrent depression without psychotic features and transvestic fetishism with gender dysphoria.
Edwards claims his problems started when he reported to automotive class on Nov. 22, 2006.
He claims an officer told him to "wear a thong and change the oil" in front of other inmates and officers. He claims another officer said "Harry, Harry dresses like Mary" in front of other inmates.
He also claims he filed a grievance against the officer on Dec. 1, 2006, which caused him to be placed in disciplinary investigative status for filing a grievance against the officer.
"The defendants' actions were so arbitrary and ridiculous that they didn't even state at the adjustment committee summary the reason for placing the plaintiff in a disciplinary investigative status for filing a grievance against officer," Edwards wrote.
Edwards also claims he was denied his work release that he was eligible for because he was incarcerated on a non-violent drug crime.
"The plaintiff is not a sex offender and should not have been denied for participating in the sex offender program for his own education," Edwards wrote. "The law and administrative procedures language states clearly that you can only be denied if you are a sex offender."
Edwards asserts his due process rights were violated through abuse of authority.
He is seeking a judgment that requires officers be ordered to participate in diversity training, demoted and, where warranted, removed from employment with the Department of Corrections.
The case has been assigned to District Judge William Stiehl.