In 2012, a transgender woman Ashley Diamond, was arrested on burglary charges and was housed in a correctional facility with men. Although Diamond had been taking estrogen therapy for 17 years, she was denied access to her medication; her gender as a woman was not acknowleged by the Georgia Corrections Department.
Diamond,now 36, subsequently sued the department in February, her initial lawsuit saying that her rights were after the agency failed to continue her treatment, as well as disregarded her gender by placing her in a male correctional facility. The Department of Justice recently sided with her in her lawsuit.
“Prison officials have the obligation to assess and treat gender dysphoria just as they would any other medical or mental health condition,” the Justice Department’s prosecutor Vanita Gupta said on Friday, according to The New York Times.
The Times reports that, “Without the hormones, Ms. Diamond’s body “has been violently transformed,” her lawyers wrote in the lawsuit. “Ms. Diamond has lost breast tissue and her female secondary sex characteristics have diminished,” they said. She has attempted suicide and self-castration multiple times, her lawyers said.”
The Justice Department argued that denying Ms. Diamond an individual assessment and treatment plan violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Under the Constitution, prisoners do not have a right to the medical care of their choosing, but must be provided adequate treatment for serious medical needs.
Though the Justice Department did not explicitly say the prison should provide the hormones, it argued that Georgia’s treatment policy and those like it were unconstitutional. The guidelines, known as “freeze frame” policies, allow inmates to continue any treatment they were receiving before their arrest but prohibit them from expanding or starting new treatments.
Since that lawsuit, Diamond alleges she experiences both sexual abuse from prisoners and retaliation from Corrections, reports the NY Daily News.
Her lawyer, Chinyere Ezie of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also alleges that within two days of her March 17 move to a prison with high rates of sexual assault (which they allege is retaliatory), Diamond alleges she was nearly raped in a stairwell. She also says that inmates in the dormitory and prison yard have exposed themselves, masturbated in her direction and tried to grab her.
“When you f— with the GDC, they f— you back,” is what prison guards reportedly told Diamond as she packed up the morning of March 17 for a transfer, as reported by The News. “Since my arrival at Georgia State Prison I have hardly slept. I lie awake at night in constant fear, knowing that another assault is imminent,” Diamond, 36, wrote.
There is precedent for transgender inmates undergoing hormone therapy while imprisoned and the Times cites the case of Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who provided classified documents in the Wikileaks case. Manning was awarded hormone treatment last month while behind bars at Fort Leavenworth, reports the Times.
A judge recently also ordered California’s corrections department to pay for a transgender sex change for the inmate to live as a woman.