Facing Increasing Danger, Ashley Diamond Demands Transfer Out of Male Prison
November 23, 2021, Macon, GA – Today, Ashley Diamond, a Black transgender woman, submitted new evidence to the court overseeing her case against the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) and once again asked the court to order a transfer from the male prison where she has endured repeated sexual assaults and relentless sexual harassment. Since a hearing in May, where Ashley Diamond detailed abuse by both incarcerated men and prison officials, she has suffered two more sexual assaults, including one by multiple men. Conditions have grown so dangerous that Ms. Diamond, an activist who for years has championed the rights of incarcerated and trans people, recently attempted suicide.
“As a result of the retaliation I’ve described, and because all of my efforts to report sexual abuse and mistreatment have been disregarded, reporting sexual assaults within GDC continues to feel dangerous as well as pointless,” said Ms. Diamond. “I still fear for my life if I report assaults and sexual misconduct by gang-affiliated aggressors, of which there are several. And although I’m sexually harassed so often it is impossible for me to document each incident, my complaints to GDC staff have also gone nowhere.”
Exactly one year after Ms. Diamond filed her lawsuit, lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights today filed a renewed request for emergency relief on Ms. Diamond’s behalf. Since the May hearing, they say, GDC has refused to take any responsive or corrective measures or to transfer her to a female facility, where she would be safer. Evidence recently released by GDC shows that it has summarily dismissed all of Ms. Diamond’s reports of sexual assault, refusing to review camera footage and dismissing eyewitness accounts.
“Contrary to defendants’ arguments, prison officials cannot justify the failure to protect Ms. Diamond from sexual assaults by failing to properly investigate more than a dozen assaults under their watch,” said Beth Littrell, SPLC Senior Attorney.“Intentional ignorance is not a constitutional excuse.”
The need to take protective measures could not be more urgent, attorneys say. In Coastal State Prison, where GDC insists on keeping Ms. Diamond, she faces ubiquitous dangers. Beyond the numerous sexual assaults, the times she has been grabbed, groped, propositioned, threatened, and harassed are too numerous to count, according to the court filing. She is routinely threatened with death if she so much as looks in the direction of certain men and once narrowly escaped when a group of men with knives stormed her dorm.
“Placing transgender women in mens’ prisons where they are certain to face sexual abuse and assault is the definition of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment,” said Chinyere Ezie, a Senior Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Over two periods of incarceration, Ms. Diamond has been sexually assaulted 18 times. Based on her history of activism – her first lawsuit resulted in a defeat for the department, and both lawsuits have led to DOJ investigations into their failures, her attorneys say GDC’s refusal to protect or transfer her is beyond negligence, it seems more like revenge. First incarcerated in 2012 and sentenced to 12 years in prison after pawning a saw her boyfriend had stolen, she was housed in a series of medium- and maximum-security prisons for men where she faced repeated sexual assaults while officials ignored her pleas for protection. Officials also denied critical hormone therapy that she had been receiving for 17 years and placed her in solitary confinement for "pretending to be a woman."
Ms. Diamond brought a lawsuit demanding that GDC provide both safe placement for transgender prisoners and medically necessary care. In February 2016, after she had been released, she reached a landmark settlement that led to significant reforms; GDC agreed, for example, to provide hormone therapy. But little changed for transgender people in Georgia’s prisons, as Ms. Diamond discovered firsthand when she was reincarcerated on a technical parole violation in 2019. In 2020, she filed a second lawsuit against GDC, demanding transfer from a male prison and adequate care for gender dysphoria.
In response to her legal advocacy, GDC launched what her lawyers call a “smear campaign” to punish her and diminish her chances of early release by charging her with a barrage of specious infractions. The recent summary dismissals of her complaints of sexual assaults, say her attorneys, are part of that pattern of retaliation.
Although her 2016 settlement secured important reforms, Ms. Diamond has essentially been fighting the same legal fight for years, and the risks she faces have only grown more acute. The motion filed today asks the court to protect Ms. Diamond by transferring her to a women’s facility and otherwise instituting measures to keep her safe from the onslaught of sexual assault and abuse.
For more information and to read today’s filing and Ms. Diamond’s declaration, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights case page.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit: www.splcenter.org. “SPLCenter” on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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.