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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 16 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 20
Southern Poverty Law Center demands Georgia Department of Corrections provide Transgender prisoner with necessary hormone treatment
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Southern Poverty Law Center demands Georgia Department of Corrections provide Transgender prisoner with necessary hormone treatment

Refusal to provide hormones to Transgender prisoners risks lawsuit

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) today demanded that the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) provide a Transgender woman in state prison medically necessary hormones or risk a federal lawsuit.

A letter to the prison commissioner describes how the GDC refused to provide Ashley Diamond with the necessary hormone therapy after she entered prison in March 2012.

This refusal violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment as well as the GDC's own policies, which require maintaining the hormone level Ms. Diamond had at the time she entered GDC custody. Ms. Diamond has received hormones since age 17. The SPLC demanded that Ms. Diamond, currently held at Valdosta State Prison, and the state's other Transgender inmates receive the necessary hormone therapy and mental health care by May 30.

'The courts have made clear that Transgender inmates have a right to continue their medically necessary hormone treatment,' said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. 'Denying Ashley Diamond her medication is cruel and unusual punishment. The state of Georgia is trying to erase her identity, but the U.S. Constitution prohibits this.'

Ms. Diamond had been receiving female hormones for half her life when she was incarcerated for a nonviolent offense at the age of 34 in 2012. Her body has already changed dramatically since the therapy has been withheld. Ms. Diamond's voice has deepened, her facial hair has begun to grow and her body fat has redistributed.

Instead of receiving the hormone 'maintenance' as required by the prison system's own policy, Ms. Diamond was told to simply 'learn the appropriate skills to adapt.' She was even placed in solitary confinement for a week for 'pretending to be a woman.'

The need for Transgender inmates to continue such hormone therapy has been recognized by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the National Institute of Corrections. Federal Bureau of Prison standards require that inmates in Ms. Diamond's situation receive hormone treatment and access to mental health providers familiar with Transgender care.

'I am only asking for respect,' Ms. Diamond said. 'No one would deny a diabetic prisoner insulin. No one would sentence a person to a gender change. But because I am Transgender, I am denied basic medical care and forced to change gender. Nobody should be sentenced to torture like this.'

Ms. Diamond continues to experience physical illness, depression and suicidal thoughts as a result of the lack of treatment. She also has been targeted for physical and verbal harassment by guards and inmates.

After Ms. Diamond met with SPLC attorneys in December 2013, she was placed in solitary confinement for six days and then transferred to another facility. The move was classified as 'disciplinary' despite the lack of any disciplinary incident, according to the letter. Her attorneys were unable to contact her during this period.

Transgender people often encounter discrimination and prejudice, particularly black Transgender people, such as Ms. Diamond. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 41 percent of Transgender respondents of color said they have been arrested or held in police custody due to bias against their identity. The survey also found that 39 percent of black Transgender respondents said they have been denied a home or apartment because of their gender identity or expression - double the rate for all Transgender people (19 percent).

Almost half of all Transgender respondents (47 percent) said they have had an adverse job outcome - such as being fired, not hired or denied a promotion - because they are Transgender or gender nonconforming.

'The Transgender community already faces tremendous discrimination,' Dinielli said. 'They shouldn't have to worry that a brush with the law could result in the state's attempting to force them to change their gender.'

A copy of the demand letter can be viewed here http://sp.lc/1gzUzOu.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org .

Courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center

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