The US Department of Justice has joined a federal lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections by a transgender woman who has been denied hormone therapy and been kept in a male prison since 2012.
Ashley Diamond was convicted of burglary and other charges in 2012 but when she arrived at a Georgia state prison intake center she was ordered to strip alongside male inmates.
‘During intake, I kept saying: “Hello? I’m trans? I’m a woman?”’. Diamond told the New York Times.
‘But to them I was gay. I was what they called a “sissy.” So finally I was like: “O.K., I’m a sissy. Do you have a place where sissies can go and be O.K.?”
They did not and as a result Diamond says she has been raped at least seven times during her sentence to date.
She says going off the hormones she has taken for 17 years has had a terrible effect on her health, resulting in loss of breast mass, physical pain and muscle spasms.
Through her lawsuit Diamond is seeking to have her hormone treatment reinstated and to be moved to a more appropriate facility so that she can complete her sentence in safety.
The Department of Justice is concerned by the unconstitutionality of the Georgia Department of Corrections so-called ‘freeze-frame’ policy which ‘prohibit treatment beyond the type of care the prisoner received in the community prior to incarceration.
As Diamond was not assessed as being a transgender woman on entering the prison system, the state of Georgia did not record her as receiving treatment.
The Department of Justice believes this policy violates the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution as it mandates individualized assessment and care for transgender people.
‘By taking action in this case, the Justice Department is reminding departments of corrections that prison officials have the obligation to assess and treat gender dysphoria just as they would any other medical or mental health condition,’ Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division said in a statement on Friday.
‘Prisoners with gender dysphoria should not be forced to suffer needlessly during their incarceration simply because they were not receiving care, or could not prove they were receiving care, in the community.
‘Freeze-frame policies can have serious consequences to the health and well-being of transgender prisoners, who are among the most vulnerable populations incarcerated in our nation’s prisons and jails.’
Gender dysphoria is the clinical term still used by many health professionals to describe feeling that you are transgender.