- ‘Being a woman in a men’s prison is a nightmare.’
A transgender woman is suing the Georgia Department of Corrections for failing to protect her from sexual assault or provide adequate health care.
It’s the second time Ashley Diamond has sued the agency. She previously took action in 2015 while an inmate at the Georgia State Prison after officials didn’t allow her hormone therapy. The following year, after her release, she won an historic settlement.
Georgia changed policies so that many trans inmates could receive treatment. And it agreed to update its sexual assault policies and train staff about transgender prisoners.
Diamond went back into prison in October last year after she violated parole.
But officials have again incarcerated her in a men’s prison. And her lawsuit claims she has faced sexual assault more than 14 times in the past year, by other prisoners and even staff.
Diamond said: ‘Being a woman in a men’s prison is a nightmare. I’ve been stripped of my identity. I never feel safe. Never.
‘I experience sexual harassment on a daily basis, and the fear of sexual assault is always a looming thought. I’m bringing this lawsuit to bring about change on behalf of a community that deserves the inherent dignity to simply exist.’
Officer called her a ‘freak’
Her lawsuit details one period of three days during which different people sexually assaulted Diamond four times.
It also claims a member of staff locked Diamond in an office two days in a row and sexually harassed her for hours on end.
In a statement, her representatives also describe an incident where she moved into the dorm in a men’s prison.
An officer called a dormitory-wide meeting and announced Diamond’s transgender status. In the meeting, the officer disclosed confidential medical information and described her as ‘a freak’, ‘he’ and ‘it’. Diamond endured an assault shortly after.
Alongside the assaults, the suit says officials have denied her access to gender treatment again. It says the Department of Corrections only provides gender treatment inconsistently and trans prisoners face long delays.
As a result Diamond has suffered anxiety, depression, attempted suicide and even self-harmed by trying to castrate herself.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is representing her in her second lawsuit along with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which handled the original case.
Chinyere Ezie, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, brought Diamond’s original lawsuit in 2015 while working at SPLC. He said:
‘I never thought I would be partnering with Ashley Diamond to sue Georgia for a second time. However, little has changed since 2015 when it comes to the abuse and neglect of transgender people in [Georgia Department of Corrections] custody,’
Meanwhile Beth Littrell, senior attorney for SPLC, added:
‘We sued Georgia prisons on Ashley’s behalf before and, unfortunately, we’re having to sue again to end the abhorrent treatment of transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, in Georgia’s prisons.
‘Five years after changing its policies in response to our first lawsuit, [Georgia Department of Corrections] tragically continues to flout its legal obligations to protect transgender people in its custody.
‘The assaults and threats that Ashley continues to face on a daily basis are based on the fact that she is a woman in a men’s prison – it’s intolerable and inexcusable.’