Macon judge denies transgender Georgia inmate’s plea for transfer

A federal court judge has denied transgender Georgia inmate Ashley Diamond’s request to be transferred to a lower-security prison for her safety. The ruling came down in a Monday afternoon hearing in which Diamond was present to testify. Diamond’s lawyers tell the Georgia Voice they are “very concerned” she will be assaulted again, or cause harm to herself again.

The hearing was held to address whether the Georgia Department of Corrections has taken the necessary steps to keep Diamond safe since her transfer last month from Baldwin State Prison in Milledgeville to Georgia State Prison in the city of Forsyth.

Judge Marc Treadwell cited the Georgia Department of Corrections’ efforts since the filing of a temporary restraining order (TRO) in his decision, including moving an inmate who was harassing Diamond to another location, interviewing her after the allegations of assault were reported, moving her to a room closer to a security camera and adding a guard to the foot patrol on the floor where she is housed. The ruling did not address the other issues raised by Diamond’s lawyers, like better training, medically adequate care and monetary relief. Diamond says she has been raped or sexually assaulted seven times since her incarceration began in 2012.

“Although we are disappointed the district court did not issue a temporary restraining order, we are encouraged by the court’s close attention to the dangers Ashley Diamond currently faces in prison,” says David Dinielli, Southern Poverty Law Center deputy legal director. “We also are pleased that the court ordered the Georgia Department of Corrections immediately to report any further incidents of harassment or assault. After three years of grave mistreatment and abuse, it has taken our federal lawsuit, a filing by the Department of Justice and attention to Ashley’s plight to kick-start what we hope are positive steps for better care. The Southern Poverty Law Center continues to focus on Ashley’s safety and health.”

Diamond’s lawyers say they are “very concerned” that she will be assaulted again, or do harm to herself again, now that’s she’s back in Georgia State Prison.

“Ms. Diamond testified under oath that she would rather die than be assaulted again,” Dinielli tells the Georgia Voice. “She has been diagnosed with PTSD because of the trauma from the repeated assaults against her while incarcerated. In her current location, she remains in danger of coming in contact and being harassed by dangerous inmates, including ones who have ties with gang members who assaulted her in another Georgia prison. They have sent threatening letters. She is very fearful.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the suit on behalf of Diamond in February. Increased media attention, including vocal support by Elton John and Michael Stipe, was followed by the U.S. Department of Justice issuing a statement calling the denial of hormone therapy unconstitutional.

The Georgia DOC restored Diamond’s hormone treatments less than a week later, although her lawyer expressed concerns that the dosage was too low to be therapeutic.

“We continue to focus on ensuring Ashley’s safety is met and medical care needs are adequate. Prison officials started Ms. Diamond on initial hormone treatment around March 7 but the amount is not appropriate,” Dinielli says.

He also says they have not given up on getting Diamond transferred. No hearing date has been set yet but both the defense and the plaintiff were asked to follow up with the court in 30 days.