The name of trans woman Ashley Diamond, who has been fighting Georgia prisons' discriminatory treatment of trans inmates from the inside, has become a rallying cry among trans prison rights activists worldwide in the past several months.
Her fight received a huge boost in April when, in response to the 36-year-old's federal lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections, the federal government issued a landmark statement backing her claim that her Eighth Amendment rights had been violated when prison staff continually refused to provide the hormone therapy she had been on for nearly two decades prior to incarceration. Diamond has also been outspoken about the alleged sexual abuse she has faced in prison — an experience that has continued despite her gains.
On Friday, after telling the court she received a "sexually explicit" note while in church on May 3, Diamond was moved from an unspecified men's prison in Milledgeville, Ga., to Rutledge State Prison in Columbus, Ga., a medium-security men's facility, reports Macon's Telegraph. Diamond told her lawyers she'd received several similar letters previously, with others being sent to members of her family.
"We are hopeful this will be a safer housing option," one of Diamond's attorneys, Chinyere Ezie of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said of the move in a statement reported by the Telegraph. "Ashley has endured sexual assaults, mistreatment and abuse. We continue to focus on Ashley's safety and proper care."
When previously imprisoned in Rutledge, Diamond reportedly did not experience any sexual assault — an anomaly among the several prisons she's been housed in.
In stark contrast, while housed in the Milledgeville prison, Diamond alleges that she was exposed to much harassment, including being called derogatory names like "he-she thing" by a staff member, told to "act like a man," and told to "guard her booty" by a guard, reportedly implying that she should expect to be raped. She had allegedly been punished, including with one stint in solitary confinement, for being "insufficiently masculine," notes her lawsuit.
Further, Diamond's suit alleges that she has been raped at least seven times while imprisoned, often by her cellmates, and says she sees no indication that her risk for sexual assault will lessen. Her lawsuit claims that some of her housing placements were made in retaliation for her continued requests for hormone treatment.
While the DOJ's statement does not refer to Diamond's sexual assault claims, the federal government's Prison Rape Elimination Act, which passed unanimously through Congress in 2003, demands that prisons institutute a "zero tolerance policy" for the rape of inmates. The PREA has suffered, however, in its implementation, as recent cases of trans inmates Passion Star and LeslieAnn Manning help illustrate. PREA acknowledges that trans women are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault while in men's prisons, and calls for a "case-by-case" assessment as to their detention. Diamond claims that the prison staff's indifference to her numerous reports of repeated rapes is an additional violation of her Eighth Amendment rights.
The DOJ's backing of Diamond's argument about necessary health care was a significant win for her case, and may ultimately help her find justice. According to the Times, the DOJ's statement is believed to be "the first time that the Justice Department has weighed in on the question of whether hormone therapy for transgender inmates is necessary medical care that states are required to provide." Previously, the DOJ had only made similar arguments regarding trans prisoners held in federal prisons.
Eight months ago, Diamond began secretly recording short clips of herself reporting on her experiences in prison and posted them to YouTube in a heartbreaking series titled Memoirs of a Chain Gang Sissy. Hear more from Diamond below in a collection of her videos edited together by SPLC.