Trans woman sues Georgia prisons over alleged assaults for second time

Ashley Diamond alleges that she has been assaulted more than 14 times in the past year by inmates and prison staff

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Black transgender woman Ashley Diamond has filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections and several employees associated with the agency.

In the lawsuit, Diamond alleges that she was not protected from sexual assaults and denied access to “adequate healthcare” while serving time as an inmate at the Coastal State Prison in Savannah, Georgia.

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According to the lawsuit, which was filed on Monday, Diamond was housed in a men’s unit when she returned to prison in 2019 due to a parole violation. There, she has been allegedly assaulted more than 14 times in the past year by inmates and prison staff. The lawsuit claims she has also been subjected to sexual harassment and denied necessary treatment for her gender dysphoria, which has led her to attempt suicide. 

Diamond has filed similar lawsuits in the past. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center, she settled a suit with the department in 2016. One year prior, Diamond filed a lawsuit challenging the abusive conditions facing incarcerated transgender people in Georgia prisons, which led to a historic settlement agreement and the rebuke of GDC from the federal court and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ashley Diamond is pictured an undated photo. (Credit: Robin Henson/Southern Poverty Law Center)

But despite the policy changes her lawsuit created, Diamond was met with similar unconstitutional conditions when she re-entered GDC custody last year.  

“Being a woman in a men’s prison is a nightmare,” Diamond said in a statement, released by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

”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.”

In a statement to theGrio, the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) said, “The GDC does not comment on pending litigation.” The statement was provided by Joan Heath, the Public Affairs Director for Georgia Department of Corrections. 

An inmate holds onto a fence during the Angola Prison Rodeo at the Louisiana State Penitentiary April 23, 2006 in Angola, Louisiana. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Chinyere Ezie, an attorney who is representing Diamond in the lawsuit, said the GDC is fully aware of its legal responsibility. “I never thought I would be partnering with Ashley Diamond to sue Georgia for a second time,” she explained. “However, little has changed since 2015 when it comes to the abuse and neglect of transgender people in GDC custody.”

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2020 has been a deadly year for trans people, specifically Black trans women, with 36 violent deaths documented in the U.S. this year. The number is likely higher, as trans and gender non-conforming people are often misgendered. Attorneys for Diamond say her case illustrates the experiences of trans people in Georgia prison and nationwide, adding that Diamond is fighting for their safety, health, and dignity. 

“My hope is that the future is brighter for people like me,” Diamond said. “I hope this lawsuit forever changes the way transgender people in Georgia are treated. This fight is not just my fight, it’s our fight.” 

Kelsey Minor is a 2x Emmy-award winning freelance journalist based in New York City. He can be followed on Twitter @theKELSEYminor 

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