Georgia prison officials refuse to protect Ashley Diamond despite repeated sexual assaults and sexual harassment
Ashley Diamond, a Black transgender woman held in a men’s prison in Georgia, continued her legal battle for protection from the ongoing sexual abuse she endures, by renewing her request last night for a federal court to order her transferred to a female facility.
Ms. Diamond has endured repeated sexual assaults and sexual harassment since being placed in the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC). Ignoring her pleas and reports of sexual abuse, Georgia prison officials have refused to take any steps to protect Ms. Diamond, showing “deliberate indifference” to her suffering, according to a brief filed on her behalf by her lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
The filing responds to a GDC brief that Ms. Diamond’s lawyers say shows “callous disregard” for the safety of a woman it insists must be housed with men. GDC urges the court to, as it has, ignore the ongoing abuse because Ms. Diamond has not documented the physical injuries from her sexual assaults and because, they allege, she has disciplinary violations.
Neither of these arguments justify ignoring a victim’s pleas for protection, and neither is legitimate legal grounds to deny Ms. Diamond the injunctive relief to which she is entitled under the law, her lawyers say.
“GDC has proven, time and again, that they consider transgender women like Ashley Diamond unworthy of protection. That’s why we’re asking the Court to step in. Serial sexual abuse should not be part of Ms. Diamond’s — or indeed, anyone’s —incarceration,” said Chinyere Ezie, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Since reentering GDC custody in October 2019, Ms. Diamond has reported more than 15 sexual assaults. In May 2021, Ms. Diamond detailed nearly a dozen sexual assaults and described an environment in which she is grabbed, groped, propositioned, threatened, and otherwise sexually abused on a daily basis. Since that hearing, as today’s filing lays out, she has suffered even more sexual assaults, including one by multiple men.
GDC does not dispute that it has failed to take action to protect Ms. Diamond since the May hearing. She is still forced to live and shower with men, even though she is female, has breasts, and has taken hormones for more than 25 years. After the hearing, GDC abruptly stopped providing her escorts from her dorm to other locations in the prison that gave her a measure of safety, her lawyers say.
Not only has GDC failed to transfer Ms. Diamond to a female facility or take any other protective measures to which she is entitled, it has failed to properly investigate her reports of abuse. Instead, it has summarily dismissed all of her reports as “disproven” and allowed the destruction of video footage that would have corroborated her accounts of abuse.
At the same time, GDC has targeted Ms. Diamond with an avalanche of alleged rules violations, which it now cites as cause to deny her protection – despite the absence of an impartial tribunal and due process, her lawyers say. According to today’s filing, not only does the Constitution require prison officials to protect everyone in their custody, regardless of alleged discipline charges, but the unreliability of these alleged violations is clear. At the May hearing, prison officials were caught falsely designating Ms. Diamond as a sexual aggressor to justify their refusal to transfer her – a designation the court ordered them to reverse after recognizing the discipline charges were supported only by unreliable evidence.
“Sadly, Georgia prison officials have met neither their constitutional nor moral responsibility to safeguard Ms. Diamond from a vicious environment of unending sexual abuse,” said Beth Littrell, Senior Attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Their latest filing shows a stunning disregard for human suffering when it comes to housing a woman in a men’s prison. Hopefully, the federal court will see through their head-in-the-sand, blame-the-victim excuses and grant our request for injunctive relief.”