Court Hears Emergency Motion From Ashley Diamond
May 12, 2021, Atlanta – Today, a federal judge heard an emergency motion in a case charging the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) with violating the constitutional rights of Ashley Diamond, a Black, transgender woman currently incarcerated in a men’s prison in Georgia, by failing to protect her health and safety. Ms. Diamond sought an emergency order of protection and an emergency injunction following persistent harassment and repeated sexual assaults, including at the hands of prison staff, the denial of life-saving gender dysphoria care, and repeated retaliation against her after she reported the abuse.
Since her re-incarceration on a technical parole violation in October 2019, Ms. Diamond has been sexually assaulted and abused 16 times--horrific assaults and attacks that have included being anally and orally raped, groped, grabbed, and masturbated and ejaculated on. Three of the incidents of sexual abuse were at the hands of GDC staff. She has also been denied treatment for gender dysphoria in accordance with medical standards, including the proper administration of feminizing hormones that she has taken for more than two decades--except during the periods when GDC has denied her access to them.
“Being a trans woman in a men’s prison in Georgia is a living nightmare,” said Ms. Diamond. “What’s happened to me is horrific, and every day I remain in this situation I remain in danger. Georgia is failing to keep me safe. They put a woman in a men’s prison-- what did they think would happen? I’m asking the court to protect me.”
Shortly after Ms. Diamond filed a complaint under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) implicating wardens for their failure to fulfill their duties and protect her in several sexual assaults against her at Coastal State Prison, the facility where she is currently held, GDC officials initiated what attorneys call a “smear campaign aimed at frustrating Ms. Diamond’s legal advocacy, punishing her for her lawsuit, and diminishing her chances of early release” on parole by papering her with rule violations and disciplinary infractions that were either plainly false, manufactured, or based on minutiae not enforced against others.
“Ashley Diamond is in a dire situation that Georgia is making worse by refusing to do what they are required to do by law to keep her safe,” said Chinyere Ezie, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Worse, they are retaliating against her for standing up for herself. We hope the court will take action immediately to make sure she gets the care and protection to which she is entitled.”
GDC went so far as to pressure another incarcerated person to lie about Ms. Diamond and accuse her of sexual assault; when he refused, he was held in prolonged solitary confinement and then transferred to a housing unit widely considered more violent than the one where he had been. Ms. Diamond’s records have also been altered to make her less safe and to manufacture a reason GDC can use to defend its failure to protect her, by changing her designation from PREA victim to PREA aggressor, and denoting her as a “security threat,” typically a gang designation. The effects of this intentional campaign of retaliation not only expose her to being placed among other incarcerated people who may pose a grave threat to her, but have delayed Ms. Diamond’s parole eligibility, postponing her release date from March 2021 until April 2022.
“This is an emergency,” said Beth Littrell, a senior attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Ashley continues to be subjected to sexual assault and abuse on a near daily basis. The only way she will be safe is if she is transferred to a women’s prison.”
Ms. Diamond sued GDC in 2015, triggering significant reforms in the treatment of incarcerated trans people in Georgia and nationwide. In her previous lawsuit, Ms. Diamond sued for the very same mistreatment: placing her in men’s prisons where she was sexually assaulted nearly a dozen times (resulting in a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and denying her medical care for gender dysphoria, including necessary hormones.
More recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a statement of interest in the case, describing the responsibilities of prison officials toward incarcerated transgender people under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The statement, issued April 22, 2021, affirms what Ms. Diamond has alleged in her lawsuit: that prison officials violate the U.S. Constitution and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment when they refuse transgender people placements at facilities that correspond to their gender identity where needed for safety, and when they deny transgender people medically-necessary gender dysphoria care without conducting individualized assessments of their needs. In essence, the DOJ confirms that when it comes to Ms. Diamond—who alleges repeated sexual assaults, including by prison officials, and ongoing denial of adequate medical care—the U.S. Constitution is on her side.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.