Attorney: Transgender inmate sexually assaulted again
Latest in a series of incidents with Ashley Diamond
Ashley Diamond, the transgender Georgia inmate who filed a federal lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC), says that she has been sexually assaulted again.
The revelation comes following a July 5 court filing in Diamond’s case against the state, which began in February when the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed suit saying she had been denied hormone therapy, sexually assaulted by other inmates and tormented by inmates and staff.
This latest filing states that on or about June 10, Diamond was in the process of being transported from Rutledge State Prison to Augusta Medical Center for a medical appointment. To facilitate the trip, she was temporarily held at Georgia State Prison, the same prison she was transferred from in May over safety concerns. Diamond alleges that the inmate who was in the holding cell with her on June 10 sexually assaulted her.
According to Diamond, the perpetrator threatened her on the way back to Rutledge State Prison, warning her not to say anything about the attack. She reported the incident to GDC officials upon her return, and the alleged perpetrator was transferred to another facility on June 29.
Investigators continue to look into the incident and a Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) complaint has been filed.
“What this means is Miss Diamond is still not out of harm’s way,” says the SPLC’s Chinyere Ezie, lead attorney in Diamond’s lawsuit. “We’re hoping that the court will call the parties for a hearing sooner rather than later. We are concerned about Miss Diamond’s current status. The court is in the best position to begin to address some of her concerns.”
Retaliation claims made against warden
Diamond, a Rome, Georgia, native who has performed as a drag queen in Atlanta, also alleges that Rutledge State Prison Warden Shay Hatcher, who is a defendant in the case, shared information from the PREA complaint about the June 10 incident with other inmates. Her attorneys claim Hatcher did so in retaliation against Diamond for filing the lawsuit.
“We understand the recent disclosure of the substance of her sexual assault allegations to be an instance of retaliatory conduct,” Ezie says. “PREA is very clear that sexual assault allegations are to be treated confidentially. In spite of that, the warden disclosed the identity of the person who Miss Diamond made the allegations about to other prisoners, which has led to daily threats and being called a snitch, which puts her in a great deal of danger in the prison environment.”
The July 5 court filing cites a June 29 incident in which an inmate reportedly told Diamond to recant the sexual assault complaint “or else,” and incidents on July 5 and 7 where groups of inmates confronted her, calling her “a snitch.” Diamond says the threats are ongoing and that she is afraid to leave her dormitory, including for meals, without an escort.
Hatcher denies the allegations made against him, and GDC officials did not return a request for comment on the matter.
‘Take that garbage off your face’
On July 20, Diamond’s attorneys were contacted by an unnamed individual who claims they witnessed Diamond being put into solitary confinement that afternoon for wearing makeup.
They are still gathering details on the incident, but Diamond, who was wearing lipstick, foundation and eyeliner, was reportedly told by a guard “to take that garbage off your face” and she refused. Diamond’s attorneys say they plan on filing additional papers with the court as early as this week with details of the incident. Meanwhile, they’re staying focused on one goal in particular—getting Diamond out of Rutledge State Prison.
“The Georgia Department of Corrections should follow the federal PREA guidelines. They outline a very detailed procedure which is currently the law that calls for individualized determination for where to place a transgender inmate,” Ezie says. “We’ve really yet to see any evidence that this procedure has been followed in Georgia. Rutledge is an inappropriate facility because half the defendants reside there.”
As to why Diamond hasn’t been placed in a women’s prison, Ezie says they are asking themselves the same question.
“The federal PREA guidelines are like- wise clear that prisons should not have a blanket policy of where to house transgender female or male prisoners,” she says. “Obviously from Miss Diamond’s story alone, there are reasons to have concerns about the wisdom of that process.”
Ashley Diamond says the incident happened in a holding cell at her former prison. (Photo courtesy Southern Poverty Law Center)