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Ashley Diamond v. Timothy Ward, et al.

After a historic legal settlement over abusive conditions facing incarcerated transgender people in Georgia prisons, Ashley Diamond, a Black transgender woman, re-entered the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) in 2019 only to encounter similar unconstitutional conditions, sparking a lawsuit on her behalf by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The lawsuit describes how GDC failed to protect Diamond from sexual assault and provide her with adequate health care while incarcerated in a men’s prison after she re-entered GDC custody on a technical parole violation. It argues that GDC’s failure to protect Diamond simply because she is transgender violated the Eighth Amendment and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

In February 2015, Diamond filed a lawsuit challenging the abusive conditions facing incarcerated transgender people in Georgia prisons, which led to the historic settlement agreement and rebuke of GDC from the federal court and the U.S. Department of Justice. She was released on parole in August 2015 before re-entering GDC custody in October 2019.

According to the complaint filed in 2020, she has been subjected to relentless sexual abuse, assaults and harassment and denied necessary treatment for her gender dysphoria. Her experience has been so traumatic that she attempted suicide. The lawsuit details 14 separate sexual assaults in a year, including an ordeal that included four sexual assaults in three days. It also describes an incident in which an officer locked her in an office two days in a row and sexually abused her for hours on end.

The first assault against Diamond occurred days after her placement in a maximum security men’s prison, the type of facility in which she was originally housed by GDC, despite the nonviolent nature of her offenses. One day before Diamond moved into the dormitory in a second men’s prison where she had been transferred, an officer called a meeting of all the incarcerated people in the dorm and announced Diamond’s transgender status, disclosing confidential medical information and describing her as “a freak,” “he” and “it.” Shortly after the meeting, Diamond was – predictably – assaulted.

She developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of past sexual assaults endured while in GDC custody. Her recent experiences, along with the department’s failure to provide her with adequate treatment for her gender dysphoria, have exacerbated her PTSD and devastated her mental health.

The lawsuit also alleges that GDC continues to provide inadequate medical care to incarcerated transgender people. While Diamond’s first lawsuit reversed GDC’s policy of refusing to provide hormones to transgender people, now GDC provides, at most, only inconsistent access to hormones – far from the minimum standard of care required.