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  WINDY CITY TIMES

In her own words: Eisha Love looks back
Video below article
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond
2015-12-19

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On Dec. 18, Eisha Love was transferred to Statesville Prison in Joliet, Illinois, to "dress in and dress out"—the process for release having spent three years and nine months in a tiny cell of the Cook County Jail waiting for a trial.

After 11 hours of testing, photos, fingerprinting, paperwork and waiting in the bullpen ( a warehouse-sized holding cage ), Love was finally taken in a prison van to the massive front entrance of the facility, where she was met by the arms of her mother. Sobbing with joy, both women embraced. They didn't want to let each other go.

Freedom—a word Love never thought she would hear.

"There is a God," she told Windy City Times.

For the first three months of her incarceration—beginning in March, 2012—Love was housed in the medium security Division XI. "I was with a couple of familiar people that I was getting along with," she recalled. "Out of the blue I got a court date. I didn't know the reason behind it."

The charges against her had been upgraded from aggravated battery to attempted murder in the first degree. Love was told by a correctional officer to pack up her things because she was being sent to the all-male super maximum security Division IX to be housed alongside some of Chicago's most violent offenders.

"It was a shock," Love said. "Because my public defender never told me. I didn't understand. I was lost. I was stuck. After coming down to holding, we were walked to Division IX. They have a long tunnel. It was dawning on me—how would I be able to get through? How would things be with a girl like myself in an area with murderers?"

Initially, there were two other transgender women on Love's Protective Custody ( P.C. ) tier. Their gender and humanity were systematically robbed from them by prison guards. "It took a toll," Love said. "They would look at us as clowns. The respect level was none. They would address me as 'him.' I would let them know I was trans but it was their option to choose to say what they wanted to say. It was more not caring at all. I had to tolerate it."

"They would put boys into my cell," she added. "We were supposed to be housed according to us as being transgender but there would be times when the jail got to be over-capacity. Being in that predicament, you never know what the [chances are] of them doing something to you. It was very uncomfortable."

Years passed like that for Love—locked in her cell for usually 23 hours-per-day, which she deliberately kept dark as she retreated further into herself. "You are hoping that you're going to get some good news, but it was always bad. I was losing hope," she said.

"I had probably three [public defenders]" Love remembered. "From different ones there were different stories. One was with me. One was somewhat with me and the last one was not for me."

According to Love, her last public defender did everything she could to dissuade her from fighting her case. "There would be things that kind of discouraged me to believe that she was working for me. It was like she was working against me. I would tell her I wanted to go with a strong fight and she would say 'it happened. You did it. Just plead out.' It was a scare factor. But I felt like she was misleading me."

The public defender wasn't the only one. Love was told that the man she struck with her car had his leg amputated as a direct result of the incident. Once Clinical Professor of Law at the Chicago-Kent College of Law Daniel T. Coyne took Love's case in late 2014, it became clear through medical records that the amputation was voluntary.

"I was being lied to the whole time," Love said. "My public defender was saying that I did something I didn't do and all this time I was sitting here fighting for my life. When I got Dan, I never doubted him."

Ultimately, Coyne secured her freedom. Looking back from that long dark tunnel, Love has taken some hard lessons from her ordeal.

"This could have been something that could have been swept under the rug," she said. "I want to let other girls know that if there's anything you are doing, be careful. You never know what may happen."

See related article, including links to earlier coverage, at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Transgender-woman-released-from-jail-after-nearly-4-years-without-trial-/53720.html .



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