Ashley Diamond: Transgender Woman Settles Lawsuit With Georgia Prison Officials

Ashley Diamond, a transgender woman denied medical care while in prison, has settled her lawsuit with Georgia prison officials.

Savannah Morning News reports that Diamond, 37, voluntarily withdrew her lawsuit last week, after the state of Georgia agreed to pay her $250,000 to settle out of court. However, according to attorney Chinyere Ezie, the compensation is not the final amount Diamond will receive. Due to confidentiality, the total amount in damages Diamond will get isn’t known.

“The amount specified by the attorney general’s office is not an accurate representation of the final settlement award. Because the SPLC is bound by confidentiality, we are unable to disclose the total settlement amount.”

Ezie, a staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), said she was happy with the results of the lawsuit, which helped bring international awareness to the issues that transgender inmates face in prison.

“We’re pleased that we were able to favorably resolve this case on behalf of Ashley Diamond and bring international attention to the plight of transgender prisoners.”

According to court documents, Diamond, convicted of violating her probation in 2012 stemming from a theft offense, filed the lawsuit in February, 2015, alleging that Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) denied her request to receive gender dysphoria treatment (hormonal therapy) while in prison. Diamond had been taking hormone therapy since she was a teenager, including estrogen treatments, progestin creams, testosterone blockers, and anti-androgen medications.

Per her attorneys, Diamond “strongly identified as female.”

“[Diamond] developed full breasts, a feminine shape, soft skin, and other female secondary sex characteristics, and experienced a reduction in male attributes, allowing her to feel more like herself.”

Diamond claims that along with being denied necessary medical care, she was sexually assaulted eight times while being house with male prisoners. She was also thrown in solitary confinement after Rutledge State Prison Warden Shay Hatcher punished for her “pretending to be a woman.”

Last year, Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta stated that DCOR is required to treat gender dysphoria just as they would treat any other mental health or medical condition, something prison officials failed to do.

Ashley Diamond's inmate photo while serving time in a Georgia prison. (Photo by the Georgia Department of Corrections)

“Prison officials have the obligation to assess and treat gender dysphoria just as they would any other medical or mental health condition.”

GDC evaluated Diamond while incarcerated and determined that she did indeed have gender dysphoria, a medical term outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as extreme distress due to feeling mismatched in a body with a gender they don’t feel comfortable with. Yet, prison officials still didn’t provide her with needed hormonal therapy.

Diamond was sent back to solitary confinement for a second time after she spoke with attorneys about the abuse she was suffering. After spending a week in isolation, Diamond told the warden that she wasn’t “pretending,” but instead was in extreme pain and needed her medical treatment and that she was considering suicide. When the warden didn’t assist her, she tried to kill herself with a razor.

She was hospitalized, but received a letter from the GDC stating that the officials who denied her hormone therapy handled the situation correctly. Shortly after, Diamond started her lawsuit.

On Friday, SPLC released a video of Diamond, where she thought back to the harsh treatment she received while incarcerated and the battle she endured while fighting for justice.

“How as human beings can we make another human being feel so unvalued? Like their life is just disposable… I speak about this because I don’t want anybody else to feel like that. Nobody should feel like that.”

Ashley Diamond is now reunited with her family in Rome, Georgia, where continues to spread awareness about transgender rights. Last April, singers Elton John and Michael Stipe announced their support for Diamond and other transgendered individuals having difficulties.

[Photo by John Spink/AP Photo]