A federal judge in Macon on Monday declined to order the state Department of Corrections to immediately transfer a transgender inmate from a Reidsville prison.
The inmate, Ashley Alton Diamond, 36, has been in prison for three years. She had filed an emergency motion asking that she be transferred from the Georgia State Prison to avoid sexual assault.
In February, when Diamond was being held at a prison in Milledgeville, she filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Georgia prison officials were not allowing her to receive hormone treatments. She also alleged she wasn’t safe there.
Imprisoned on Rome-area theft and obstruction convictions, Diamond was recently moved to Reidsville, but she contends that assaults on her have continued.
She also claims to have been raped multiple times at other prisons, and in the past while incarcerated she has attempted suicide and tried to castrate herself with a razor.
In court Monday she said, “I would rather die” than be raped again, adding that the alleged assaults made her “feel a little less human-like.”
The 5-foot-10, 135-pound Diamond testified that her effeminate traits have made her a target for ridicule and assault. She said fears for her safety had “fallen on deaf ears.”
Diamond contended that her transfer to Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, after a stay at Baldwin State Prison in Milledgeville, was punishment for her filing a federal suit.
She said in court that a Baldwin corrections officer told her, “When you (expletive) with GDC, they (expletive) with you back.”
U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell, in denying a temporary restraining order during Monday’s hearing, cited changes the prison system has made in its policy on medical treatment of transgender inmates since Diamond’s lawsuit was filed.
At issue Monday, however, was whether prison officials had violated Diamond’s Eighth Amendment rights.
“And to prove that,” Treadwell said, “a plaintiff must show that there is a substantial risk of serious harm and that the defendants are deliberately indifferent to that risk.”
Treadwell pointed out that it wasn’t up to him to determine “the optimum solution” for Diamond’s prison housing.
As Diamond was about to be led from the courtroom in chains, one of her family members sobbed.
“It’s a hard burden to meet,” Diamond, speaking of the judge’s ruling, told a handful of relatives and supporters. “It’s just the beginning. It’s not over.”
“Stay alive,” one woman said to Diamond, who could remain in prison until November 2023.
“I love you guys,” Diamond said.
One of her lawyers, David Dinielli of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said later that Diamond’s “safety concerns are real.”
“She has a compelling story and she’s a compelling person, and I think compelling stories and compelling people help change the world,” Dinielli said.
“Ashley’s story is a remarkable one, but sadly it isn’t unique. There are transgender prisoners throughout this country who are facing similar hurdles.”