The black trans woman who was denied medically necessary care and allegedly subjected to repeated sexual assaults while incarcerated with men has reached a settlement in her lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been representing 37-year-old Ashley Diamond in her federal lawsuit filed in February of last year, announced the historic settlement (for an undisclosed amount) in Diamond's favor today.
“We’re pleased that we were able to favorably resolve this case on behalf of Ashley Diamond and bring international attention to the plight of transgender prisoners,” said Chinyere Ezie, Diamond's attorney, in a statement today. “Our lawsuit and Ashley Diamond’s bravery brought about important changes in Georgia and have put prison officials across the country on notice about the constitutional rights of transgender persons.”
Diamond, a trans woman of color, was denied medically necessary treatment and forced into solitary confinement, and she alleges that she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by other prisoners in all-male Georgia state prisons while she was incarcerated for three years for a nonviolent burglary and theft conviction. She was released from Augusta State Medical Prison last August and received judicial approval to pursue her lawsuit alleging anti-trans discrimination just two weeks later.
In a new video produced by the SPLC, a glowing, refreshed Diamond speaks about her harrowing, dehumanizing ordeal. She says that prison officials not only mistreated her and enabled her repeated assaults but also stripped her of authentic femininity, in part by refusing to grant her access to the hormone therapy she had been receiving for 17 years prior to her internment.
“I asked to serve my time safely and to be respected as a human being,” Diamond says in the video. "Yeah, you can cut all my hair off, shave my eyebrows off. You can take away that care that was very detrimental. My body was completely reversed. But that person is still here."
After the U.S. Department of Justice issued a statement last year declaring that the U.S. Constitution requires inmates with gender dysphoria to receive medical treatment as any other condition would be accommodated, corrections departments were placed on alert. Last April the Georgia Department of Corrections began updating its policies to bring them more into line with federal standards for the treatment and health care provided to inmates.
Since then, the Georgia Department of Corrections “rescinded its ‘freeze frame’ policy that prevented many transgender inmates from receiving medically necessary treatment,” explains SPLC's statement. “Because of [Diamond’s] case, dozens of transgender inmates across the state are now receiving hormone therapy for the first time since entering custody.”
The statement also notes that “the Georgia Department of Corrections also adopted a sexual assault prevention policy that is more closely aligned with federal standards, and is in the process of training staff in prisons throughout the state on the health and safety needs of transgender inmates.”
"It was torture. I might be free now, but I am still struggling," Diamond said last year in a phone interview with The Advocate. "Straight out of solitary confinement, but into another confinement here on parole. Parole stipulates that I must stay here in Rome [Georgia], and this town can be like a prison too. Yes, it’s a town in the Deep South, and down here you feel it even more that the transgender issue is the civil rights issue of our time."
Watch Diamond’s video about her struggles and triumph here: