"Being a woman in a men's prison is a nightmare," says Ashley Diamond, a Black transgender woman suing the Georgia Department of Corrections (“GDC”) for failing to protect transgender inmates from sexual assault and for failing to provide adequate medical treatment for transgender inmates while incarcerated.
Ashley Diamond served three years of a ten-year sentence for burglary after pawning a stolen saw. According to the lawsuit, Ms. Ashley was assaulted fourteen times in a twelve month period while in GDC custody at a male prison facility. When she reported the abuse to prison staff, she was told to “guard her booty” and “be prepared to fight.”
In addition to these abuses, Ms. Diamond accuses prison officials of denying her access to gender affirming care, including hormone therapy. When she was placed in solitary confinement at the GDC facility, she attempted suicide several times. She also attempted self-castration.
"I've been stripped of my identity,” says Ms. Diamond. “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."
Initially, she brought a lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections because she was a woman housed in a men’s prison facility that refused to administer hormone therapy. The lawsuit, Diamond v. Owens (2015), caught the attention of the United States Department of Justice. Within a week, the state of Georgia agreed that gender dysphoria should be treated the same as any other medical condition. The state also ended its policy of denying gender-affirming care to transgender inmates.
Following her release from prison, Ashley settled her 2015 lawsuit with the state for $250,000. However, even with the money, life on the outside was not easy for Ms. Diamond. In 2019, Ashley was arrested again for parole violation. She is now being held by GDC in a male prison again and despite her first lawsuit, she is experiencing the same treatment as before including sexual harassment and assault and denial of access to hormone therapy.
On November 23, 2020, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a second lawsuit on Ms. Diamond’s behalf against GDC. This lawsuit again brings transgender justice to the forefront of the national conscious.
Ms. Diamond is demanding that she be adequately protected from sexual harm, harassment and assault by transfer to a women’s facility. She further demands that GDC provide her with access to adequate healthcare. For transgender inmates, health care must go beyond hormone therapy. The lawsuit demands that the GDC allow Ms. Diamond to wear womens’ undergarments, allow her to access hair removal treatments, and allow her to regularly visit healthcare providers qualified to treat gender dysphoria.
SisterLove, Inc. stands behind Ashley Diamond and the LGBTQIA+ community in the fight for equal rights. This year has seen a record-breaking number of trans and gender non-conforming individuals killed. Sixty-six percent of the lives lost have been those of Black trans-women just like Ashley Diamond.
It is important to highlight the fact that Ashley Diamond is not alone in her experiences. Trans people all across the country are experiencing abuse while incarcerated. They are forced to live in unsafe housing conditions where they are subject to sexual abuse, and may not be receiving the proper healthcare they deserve.
We at SisterLove are doing all we can to fully embrace the trans/non gender-conforming community. The voices of trans individuals need to be uplifted. We support the work of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center in supporting Ashley and her case. To learn more about Ashley’s case click here. To read Ashley Diamond’s Complaint against the Georgia Department of Corrections, click here.