If you recall, transgender woman Ashley Diamond was unexpectedly released in 2015 after serving just three years of a 12-year sentence in a Georgia jail.
Ashley’s release came after the SPLC filed a lawsuit suing the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) for a plethora of inhumanities imposed on her while incarcerated. Ashley had smuggled out 11 short videos documenting her ill-treatment in 2014, but the GDC maintained that her extraordinarily early release was just a matter of timing and circumstance.
After years of denying her hormone therapy, housing her with male prisoners and failing to protect her from sexual assault, the Georgia Department of Corrections changed its treatment policy, released Ms. Diamond on parole and reached a settlement in her lawsuit. She became a leading voice for incarcerated transgender people.
Five years later, it is as if she had never won. – New York Times
Ms. Diamond was sent back to prison about a year ago for a parole violation. Once again she has been housed with men, and says she has been sexually assaulted more than 14 times since her return, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed on Monday by her lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“I never thought I would be partnering with Ashley Diamond to sue Georgia for a second time,” said Chinyere Ezie, attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights in a press release.
Today’s lawsuit argues that GDC failed to protect Ms. Diamond from sexual assault and knowingly put her in danger, in violation of the Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause to the U.S. Constitution, by denying her protection from sexual assault GDC affords others simply because she is transgender.
As a result of a technical parole violation, Ms. Diamond, who was released on parole in August, 2015, re-entered GDC custody in October 2019 and has once again been housed in men’s prisons where she has been sexually assaulted more than 14 times in the past year by other incarcerated people and GDC staff. According to the complaint filed today, she also has been subjected to relentless sexual harassment and denied necessary treatment for her gender dysphoria. Her experience has been so traumatic that Ms. Diamond recently attempted suicide.
“Being a woman in a men’s prison is a nightmare,” said Ms. Diamond. “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.”
The lawsuit details some of the experiences Ms. Diamond has endured throughout her reincarceration over the past year, including a period of three days during which Ms. Diamond was sexually assaulted four times by different people. It also describes an incident in which an officer locked Ms. Diamond in an office two days in a row and sexually harassed her for hours on end.
The first assault against Ms. Diamond occurred days after her placement in the maximum security men’s prison where she was originally housed by GDC, despite the non-violent nature of her offenses. One day before Ms. Diamond moved into the dorm in a second men’s prison where she had been transferred, an officer called a dormitory-wide meeting and announced Ms. Diamond’s transgender status, disclosing confidential medical information and describing her as “a freak,” “he,” and “it.” Shortly after this meeting, Ms. Diamond was – predictably – assaulted.
Ms. Diamond developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of past sexual assaults she 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, causing her to try to harm herself.
“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 GDC custody,” said Chinyere Ezie, attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, who brought Ms. Diamond’s original lawsuit in 2015 while working at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In 2019, Georgia adopted a new policy for the “Classification and Management of Transgender and Intersex Offenders” that is supposed to make placement decisions on an case-by-case basis, give serious consideration to the transgender person’s own views regarding safety, provide inmates with the opportunity to shower separately, and reassess their placement after any incident of sexual abuse.
None of that has happened for Ms. Diamond. In practice, officials assign people based solely on their assigned sex at birth, and punish them for “perceived gender-nonconformity,” the lawsuit said.
“Every day, I fear for my life as I sit and stare through the metal bars in my cell.”- Ashley Diamond, a Black transgender social justice and prisoners’ rights activist currently incarcerated at Coastal State Prison in Georgia.
“Ashley has endured repeated sexual assault, harassment, and denial of critical health care while housed in a men’s facility,” Chinyere Ezie wrote on Facebook. “Her landmark victory against the Georgia Department of Corrections made national headlines in 2016, but she was re-imprisoned as a result of a technical parole violation, and is experiencing the same abuse.”
Ashley’s legal team has repeatedly advocated for her safety and care, but her situation is dire and urgent, and she needs your support.
Join us in showing Ashley she is not alone by writing her a message of solidarity or donating to her go-fund me. Links below: