Sarah Ford | April 14, 2015

SPLC lawsuit demands necessary health care for transgender inmate in Georgia prison

The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a federal lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections on behalf of a transgender woman who has been denied medically necessary treatment and sexually assaulted by other inmates while held at a men’s prison.

Since entering prison three years ago for a nonviolent offense, prison officials have denied 36-year-old Ashley Diamond the female hormones that she had been receiving for 17 years. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia this week, describes how denying this medically necessary care has resulted in grave physical and mental harm to Diamond, including mental anguish and bodily harm, in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Diamond has endured repeated sexual assaults by prisoners, and prison officials  have ignored pleas to ensure her safety, according to the lawsuit. Despite her nonviolent offense, Diamond has been housed in a series of prisons for male felons considered to be the most violent and dangerous in state custody.  

Transgender inmates can be housed safely and without fear of sexual assault when prisons follow the law, including the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2000.

“Ashley Diamond was not sentenced to sexual assault and a gender change when she was imprisoned for a probation violation,” said Chinyere Ezie, SPLC staff attorney. “Tragically, the state of Georgia is forcing Ashley to transition from female to male by denying her the protection and medical care she needs. Transgender inmates like Ashley have a right to be kept safe and to receive medically necessary treatment, including hormones.” 

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