Georgia prison officials refuse to protect Ashley Diamond despite repeated sexual assaults and sexual harassment
February 23, 2022, Macon, GA– Ashley Diamond, a Black transgender woman held in a men’s prison in Georgia, continued her legal battle for protection from the ongoing sexual abuse she endures by renewing her request last night for a federal court to order her transferred to a female facility.
Ms. Diamond has endured repeated sexual assaults and sexual harassment since being placed in the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC). Ignoring her pleas and reports of sexual abuse, Georgia prison officials have refused to take any steps to protect Ms. Diamond, showing “deliberate indifference” to her suffering, according to a brief filed on her behalf by her lawyers from the the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The filing responds to a GDC brief that Ms. Diamond’s lawyers say shows “callous disregard” for the safety of a woman it insists must be housed with men. GDC urges the court to, as it has, ignore the ongoing abuse because Ms. Diamond has not documented the physical injuries from her sexual assaults and because, they allege, she has disciplinary violations.
Neither of these arguments justify ignoring a victim’s pleas for protection, and neither is legitimate legal grounds to deny Ms. Diamond the injunctive relief to which she is entitled under the law, her lawyers say.
“GDC has proven, time and again, that they consider transgender women like Ashley Diamond unworthy of protection. That’s why we’re asking the Court to step in. Serial sexual abuse should not be part of Ms. Diamond’s – or indeed, anyone’s – incarceration,” said Chinyere Ezie, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Since reentering GDC custody in October 2019, Ms. Diamond has reported more than 15 sexual assaults. In May 2021, Ms. Diamond detailed nearly a dozen sexual assaults and described an environment in which she is grabbed, groped, propositioned, threatened, and otherwise sexually abused on a daily basis. Since that hearing, as today’s filing lays out, she has suffered even more sexual assaults, including one by multiple men.
GDC does not dispute that it has failed to take action to protect Ms. Diamond since the May hearing. She is still forced to live and shower with men, even though she is female, has breasts, and has taken hormones for more than 25 years. After the hearing, GDC abruptly stopped providing her escorts from her dorm to other locations in the prison that gave her a measure of safety, her lawyers say.
Not only has GDC failed to transfer Ms. Diamond to a female facility or take any other protective measures to which she is entitled, it has failed to properly investigate her reports of abuse. Instead, it has summarily dismissed all of her reports as “disproven” and allowed the destruction of video footage that would have corroborated her accounts of abuse.
At the same time, GDC has targeted Ms. Diamond with an avalanche of alleged rules violations, which it now cites as cause to deny her protection – despite the absence of an impartial tribunal and due process, her lawyers say. According to today’s filing, not only does the Constitution require prison officials to protect everyone in their custody, regardless of alleged discipline charges, but the unreliability of these alleged violations is clear. At the May hearing, prison officials were caught falsely designating Ms. Diamond as a sexual aggressor to justify their refusal to transfer her – a designation the court ordered them to reverse after recognizing the discipline charges were supported only by unreliable evidence.
“Sadly, Georgia prison officials have met neither their constitutional nor moral responsibility to safeguard Ms. Diamond from a vicious environment of unending sexual abuse,” said Beth Littrell, Senior Attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Their latest filing shows a stunning disregard for human suffering when it comes to housing a woman in a men’s prison. Hopefully, the federal court will see through their head-in-the-sand, blame-the-victim excuses and grant our request for injunctive relief.”
First incarcerated in 2012 and sentenced to 12 years in prison after pawning a saw her boyfriend had stolen, she was housed in a series of medium- and close- (maximum) security prisons for men, where she faced repeated sexual assaults and, as now, officials ignored her pleas for protection. Officials also denied her critical hormone therapy that she had been receiving for 17 years and placed her in solitary confinement for “pretending to be a woman.”
In 2015, Ms. Diamond brought an earlier lawsuit demanding that GDC provide both safe placement for transgender prisoners and medically necessary care. In February 2016, after she had been released, she reached a landmark settlement that led to significant reforms; GDC agreed, for example, to provide hormone therapy to all transgender people in their custody.
But little changed for transgender people in Georgia’s prisons, as Ms. Diamond discovered firsthand when she was reincarcerated for a technical parole violation in 2019 for traveling out of state to receive care. In 2020, she filed a second lawsuit against GDC, demanding transfer to a female facility and adequate care for her gender dysphoria.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)) is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit: www.splcenter.org. “SPLCenter” on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.