Civil rights lawsuit filed to protect transgendered Georgia prisoner

A federal lawsuit filed Thursday accused the state prison system of mistreating a transgendered inmate by not protecting her against repeated rapes in a male prison and denying her the necessary medication to stop her from transforming back to a male.

Ashley Alton Diamond, 35, had received hormonal treatments for 17 years when imprisoned in 2012 for a series of burglary and theft convictions in Floyd County. The lawsuit claims that state officials denied treatment to suppress her male characteristics and guards warned Diamond would have to “learn to fight” to survive in the prison system. The was told she had lost her right to be female when imprisoned, said the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Macon by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The warden at one prison ridiculed Diamond’s feminine mannerisms and referred to her as a “he-she thing” in front of guards and inmates, the lawsuit said. Diamond was also punished by being placed in solitary confinement for “pretending to be a woman,” the lawsuit said.

“Ashley Diamond was not sentenced to sexual assault and a gender change when she was imprisoned for a parole violation,” said Chinyere Ezie, SPLC staff attorney. “Tragically, the state of Georgia is forcing Ashley to transition from female to male by denying her the protection and medical care she needs. Transgender inmates like Ashley have a right to be kept safe and to receive medically necessary treatment, including hormones.”

The hormonal treatment is necessary for Diamond’s mental health, the lawsuit said. Joan Heath, spokeswoman for the state prison system, said the system would have no comment on the lawsuit Friday.

Diamond suffers from “gender dysphoria,”also known as gender identity disorder, a recognized psychiatric condition in which an individual’s gender identity and gender identification differ from the gender assigned at birth, causing clinically significant distress, the lawsuit said.

The denial of treatment — recommended by psychiatrists who have examined Diamond in prison —has caused Diamond’s facial hair to start growing and “her body is reverting to a masculine state,” the lawsuit said. In response, Diamond has attempted suicide and self-castration, the lawsuit said.

In addition to a request for unspecified financial damages, the lawsuits wants the state’s policy for handling transgendered inmates to be declared unconstitutional.

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