Stella Maxwell
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Incarcerated Trans Woman Sues New York Prison Over Sexual Assault

Incarcerated Trans Woman Sues New York Prison Over Sexual Assault

A transgender inmate has filed a lawsuit against Sullivan Correctional Facilities in Fallsburg, N.Y., for allegedly failing to protect her against a February 2013 rape by a fellow inmate at the facility, reports the Associated Press.

At the time of alleged assault, LeslieAnn Manning, who was housed in the maximum-security male facility, says Sullivan officials knew she was a transgender woman — an identity that commonly puts an inmate at higher risk for sexual assault in men's prisons. She had previously fought to be granted the rights to receive hormone therapy, legally change her name, grow her hair long, and wear feminine undergarments beneath her prison uniform, according to a Slate profile on the case.

In February 2013, Manning says she was at performing her job as a letter typist and deliverer for disabled inmates when she was attacked. In her suit, she claims that her work area was poorly supervised, allowed inmates to move freely, and was a gathering place for sexual offenders after their program meetings were held there. When, following her job duties, Manning delivered a letter to an inmate who sat alone in a room at the end of a hallway, she was allegedly grabbed from behind by him, raped, and told she would be killed if she told anyone. 

Manning asserts that Sullivan officials were "deliberately indifferent" to her elevated risk for attack, demonstrated by their failure to protect her from the assault. Her suit claims that officials were aware of the dangers associated with being a trans woman in a male facility, and that she had previously informed them of both the lax oversight in her work area and that her alleged attacker had raped another inmate.

"Deliberate indifference" to safety was previously declared by the Supreme Court in Farmer v. Brennan (1994) to be "cruel and unusual punishment," and therefore a violation of the Eighth Amendment, notes Slate. Further, the Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed unanimously by Congress in 2003 to protect inmates, yet audits on whether prisons have complied did not begin until 2013, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The PREA's provisions for trans prisoners suggest each inmate be assessed on a "case-by-case" basis.

Sullivan officials have not commented publicly on Manning's lawsuit. Since the alleged attack, Manning has been moved to protective custody in an alternate facility. 

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