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SPLC: Incarcerated Transgender Woman Demands Transfer to Female Facility, End to Retaliation

Emergency Motion Says Ashley Diamond’s Allegations of Assault Prompted Retaliation by Prison Staff

ATLANTA, Ga. – Today, Ashley Diamond, a Black transgender woman who is currently suing the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC), asked a federal judge for an emergency order to protect her health and safety while in GDC custody. Since her re-incarceration in connection with a technical parole violation in October 2019, Ms. Diamond has been sexually assaulted and abused 16 times, including three times at the hands of GDC staff. She has also been denied life-saving gender-dysphoria care. Among other requests for relief, Ms. Diamond seeks a transfer to a women’s prison, where she will be safer. Ms. Diamond gained national recognition for her groundbreaking lawsuit against GDC six years ago. Rather than help her, in response to her efforts to be protected from sexual assault and receive adequate medical care for her gender dysphoria over the last year and a half, GDC has retaliated against her.

“The message Georgia is sending trans people in custody is that our lives and existences simply do not matter,” said Ms. Diamond. “But I know better. Georgia’s actions toward me and other trans prisoners are a systemic abuse of power, authority, and moral decency.”

Shortly after Ms. Diamond filed a complaint under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) implicating wardens for their failure to fulfill their duties and protect her in several sexual assaults against her at Coastal State Prison, the facility where she is currently held, GDC officials initiated what attorneys call a “smear campaign aimed at frustrating Ms. Diamond’s legal advocacy, punishing her for her lawsuit, and diminishing her chances of early release” on parole by papering her with rule violations and disciplinary infractions that were either plainly false, manufactured, or based on minutiae not enforced against others.

GDC went so far as to pressure another incarcerated person to lie about Ms. Diamond and accuse her of sexual assault; when he refused, he was held in prolonged solitary confinement and then transferred to a housing unit widely considered more violent than the one where he had been. Ms. Diamond’s records have also been altered to make her less safe and to manufacture a reason GDC can use to defend their failure to protect her by changing her security designation from victim to perpetrator. The effects of this intentional campaign of retaliation not only expose her to being placed among other incarcerated people who may pose a grave threat to her, but have hurt Ms. Diamond’s parole eligibility, postponing it from March 2021 until April 2022.

Attorneys say an emergency court order is absolutely necessary to protect Ms. Diamond’s health and safety and to halt the retaliation against her and others. Ms. Diamond and her attorneys have made numerous attempts to end the daily sexual victimization and get her transferred to a women’s facility. Her attorneys have sent nine notices to GDC officials, attempting to resolve her health and safety issues without resorting to legal action. Not only have those officials not responded to the letters, but they have retaliated against Ms. Diamond. The motion filed today criticizes GDC for its practice of holding transgender women in men’s facilities despite the safety risks — and despite formal, written GDC policies and federal law allowing transgender women to be placed in female facilities.

“It goes without saying that a men’s prison is no place for a woman,” said SPLC Senior Attorney Beth Littrell. “Yet, Georgia insists on keeping Ashley housed in men’s prisons where, as any woman would be, she is exposed to repeated sexual victimization and daily sexual harassment. It’s not only unconstitutional – it’s unconscionable.”

Meanwhile, as recently as last month, Ms. Diamond experienced two more instances of sexual abuse in custody while GDC continues to punish her rather than protect her. GDC has refused to move Ms. Diamond out of the dorm where she has been repeatedly assaulted. She faces daily sexual harassment and frequent sexual victimization. And, despite having taken feminizing hormones to treat her gender dysphoria for more than two decades (except during her last period of incarceration, when her treatment was denied by GDC), she continues to be denied access to gender dysphoria care in accordance with medical standards. The motion filed today details the physical and psychological impact of denying medical care to Ms. Diamond, including repeated suicide and self-castration attempts.

“Ashley Diamond is fighting for her own survival, while also fighting to change a unjust system that discriminates against transgender people and leaves them to perish. Advocacy like this takes tremendous courage. Ashley Diamond is one of the bravest people I know,” said Chinyere Ezie, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Attorneys say GDC’s actions are especially egregious because Ms. Diamond already sued the Georgia prison system several years ago for the very same mistreatment: placing her in men’s prisons where she was sexually assaulted nearly a dozen times (resulting in a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and denying her medical care for gender dysphoria, including necessary hormones. The motions filed today ask that GDC take immediate steps to protect Ms. Diamond from physical and sexual violence, transfer her to a women’s facility for the remainder of her time in custody, provide her with medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria, and protect her and witnesses from further retaliation.

“I know this retaliation is meant to break me. And I confess, at times it’s difficult to remain hopeful,” Ms. Diamond said. “But I refuse to believe there is simply no reward to the risks that I have taken to obtain justice. No one deserves to go through what I have — I will continue to stand up for myself and for my community until we can all be safe and free.”

More information about the case can be found here and here.