Trans woman: I won’t survive attacks, retaliation in Georgia prison

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Attorneys for a transgender woman facing repeated sexual assaults while housed in Georgia prisons are asking a federal judge for an emergency order to move her to a female facility and protect her health and safety. 

Ashley Diamond, 42, said she’s been attacked and sexually assaulted 16 times since she returned to prison 18 months ago, including 10 times at the same facility since June. But her pleas for help have been ignored by the Georgia Department of Corrections and her life is in jeopardy, according to emergency legal motions filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

“Despite all of the brutal assaults I’ve endured at Coastal [State Prison], my pleas for a safety transfer have all been ignored, so I am still living in the same male prison and dormitory where I’ve already been assaulted 10 times, where I am enduring constant sexual harassment, and where threats still loom,” Diamond said in the legal filing.

“Unless GDC processes me for a safety transfer and begins giving me the healthcare I need, I worry that I will not survive incarceration,” she added.

The requests for a preliminary injunction and protective order are the latest legal filings in a years-long battle over Diamond’s treatment at the hands of Georgia prisons. In 2015, Diamond and her attorneys settled a lawsuit when the state prison system agreed to change its hormone treatment policy for trans inmates. But when she returned to prison in 2019, the sexual assaults continued and prison officials refused to provide medically necessary treatment. 

So Diamond and attorneys with the Southern Poverty Law Center and Center for Constitutional Rights filed a new lawsuit in November. The 105-page document detailed more than a dozen assaults since she re-entered state prison in October 2019, including allegations that prison staff took part in three of the incidents. The lawsuit also alleged that the state violated her constitutional rights and failed to protect her because she is transgender.

Attempts earlier this year to address the continued assaults and lack of medical care faced by Diamond failed, according to legal filings, so on Friday attorneys asked Chief District Judge Marc Treadwell to intervene.

Beth Littrell, senior attorney for SPLC, told Project Q Atlanta that she is “surprised, shocked and outraged” that Diamond continues to be sexually assaulted and that prison officials aren’t abiding by the terms of the lawsuit settlement in 2015.

“We certainly had hoped that the bravery that Ms. Diamond showed in being a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit, and putting her life out there in the way that she had to in order to get some relief – including all the horrific and gory details – would have been enough to ensure that the changes in the settlement reached would be permanent and systemic,” Littrell said.

“To find out that not much has changed and she has endured similar sexual abuses and assaults, it’s unfortunately shocking. I shouldn’t be surprised at what happens in Georgia prisons but it’s heartbreaking,” she added. 

Diamond and her attorneys asked Treadwell to order state prison officials to move Diamond to a female facility for her safety and direct them to provide medical treatment for her gender dysphoria and consistent hormone therapy. They also want to prohibit male corrections officers from conducting strip searches on Diamond and put an end to her being required to shower with male inmates. The preliminary injunction also requested that prison officials provide her with gender-affirming care, including access to permanent hair removal and accommodations for female hairstyle and grooming standards.

“They’re making no accommodations for her gender identity, which exacerbates her gender dysphoria to an unmanageable and dangerous level,” Littrell said.

Diamond’s attorneys alleged in the motions that the state corrections department launched “a campaign of retaliation” against her after she filed complaints about the sexual assaults, which continued into March. Diamond was eligible for parole in early March but the date was pushed to April 2022, according to the legal documents.

“She’s a woman in a men’s prison. Her treatment is brutal and intolerable and she needs to be in a safe environment. For her, that means a women’s prison or release,” Littrell said.

“They appear to be justifying their refusal to allow her to be eligible for parole based on a manufactured discipline violation and a kind of a smear campaign to keep her miserable,” she added.

We reached out to the Georgia Department of Corrections and will update the story if the agency responds.

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