Ashley Diamond, the black trans woman who filed a federal lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections in February for allegedly subjecting her to "cruel and unusual punishment," has reportedly been sexually assaulted once more in prison, according to Macon, Ga.'s Telegraph.
Diamond's lawsuit, filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, alleges that Georgia prison officials have repeatedly violated her Eighth Amendment rights, allegedly failing to protect her from repeated raptes by other inmates, and refusing to grant her access to her medically necessary hormone treatments.
The 36-year-old black trans woman has now been incarcerated in several state men's prisons for more than three years, and was taken off the hormone therapy she'd been on for 17 years when she was arrested in 2012 for burglary and theft, according to her lawsuit. Georgia state law requires state prisons to continue providing medication prescribed to inmates prior to their arrests, but a supposed clerical "error" had kept Diamond's hormones off her prison paperwork.
Last year, Diamond went public with this alleged abuse, as well as her story of sexual violence that she says she faced daily in Baldwin State Prison, a men's facility in Milledgeville, Ga. Through her attorneys at the SPLC, Diamond described the rape, assaults, and physical effects of being denied her prescribed hormone therapy as "torture" and a "death sentence." In her lawsuit, she explained that she had suffered severe depression and gender dyshporia because of her treatment, and had attempted to commit suicide.
Diamond's fight received a huge boost in April when, in response to her lawsuit, the federal government issued a landmark statement backing her claim that her constitutional right to incarceration free of "cruel and unusual punishment" had been violated when prison staff continually refused to provide the hormone therapy she had been on for nearly two decades prior to incarceration.
But Diamond's allegations of sexual abuse were not addressed by the federal ruling. Diamond told the courts that such treatment had continued at Baldwin and, after she received a "sexually explicit" note while in church on May 3, she was moved to a second medium-security men's facility: Rutledge State Prison in Columbus, Ga. Diamond told her lawyers she'd received several similar letters previously, with others being sent to members of her family.
And now, in a status report from Diamond's lawyers obtained by the Telegraph, Diamond alleges that she was sexually assaulted again on June 10 while temporarily held at an unspecified Georgia state prison in Reidsville while traveling to Augusta for a medical appointment.
Diamond told her lawyers that her male cellmate sexually assaulted her, and then threatened her life if she said anything. Nonetheless, Diamond reported the alleged assault to Rutledge authorities after returning from her medical trip. Prison officials have responded by placing her attacker in an isolated cell and investigating whether the incident was caught on camera. A separate investigation under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act is also underway, notes the Telegraph.
However, not all of the prison staff's response has been appropriate, Diamond says. Her report alleges that Rutledge warden Shay Hatcher informed other inmates about the alleged sexual assault, as well as the name of her attacker. Diamond says several inmates then called her a "snitch," and that she now faces threats if she does not withdraw her complaint. Diamond told her lawyers that she is now too frightened to leave her cell without an escort, even for meals.
Hatcher denies Diamond's account. Diamond currently remains house at Rutledge State Prison indefinitely.
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The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 demands a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual assaults; however, audits on whether prisons have complied with PREA provisions did not begin until 2013, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Research has found that transgender women are particularly vulnerable to rape while housed in men's prisons. While LGBT inmates in general are at a nine times a higher risk for sexual assault according to government data, one 2009 California study found that trans women faced 13 times the risk of other LGB inmates when detained in male facilities. PREA recommends facilities be aware of trans prisoners' unique safety needs, and assess "case-by-case" how to protect them from sexual assault. Sometimes this means housing trans women in solitary confinement for their own "protection," despite the practice being shown to be psychologically harmful.
The federal government recently took a step in recognizing this violence epidemic by allowing trans women held in immigrant detention to be housed with women. However, the continued use of segregation tactics, including "protective custody" and isolated pods, has led immigration detention advocates to declare the updated guidelines not strong enough to protect detainees from harm.
Diamond began secretly recording short clips of herself reporting on the ordeals she'd faced in Georgia's prisons, and began posting them to YouTube 10 months ago in a heartbreaking series titled Memoirs of a Chain Gang Sissy. Hear more from her below in a collection of her videos edited together by the Southern Poverty Law Center.