May 14, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Group demands hormones for trans Georgia inmate

Georgia Department of Corrections, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image public domain)

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Tuesday threatened to file a federal lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections if it does not allow a transgender inmate to receive hormone therapy.

David Dinielli, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, writes in a letter to Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens that personnel at Valdosta State Prison where Ashley Diamond has been incarcerated since March 2012 have refused to provide her with “constitutionally-required medical treatment in the form of hormones.”

Dinielli notes Diamond has received hormone therapy since she was 17. He writes the Georgia Department of Corrections “abruptly halted” these treatments once she entered the system — in spite of its own policy that mandates “maintenance” of a prisoner’s hormone therapy while in custody.

The Southern Poverty Law Center also claims prison personnel placed Diamond in solitary confinement for more than a week last December for “pretending to be a woman.”

“GDC’s continued refusal to provide necessary medical treatment violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, widely accepted protocol on health care standards in correctional settings, the rules and regulations of the state of Georgia, and GDC’s own internal policies concern
ing the treatment of transgender people,” writes Dinielli.

The Southern Poverty Law Center also threatens to take legal action against the Georgia Department of Corrections unless it begins to provide Diamond with “appropriate medical and mental health care relating to her transgender status” by May 30.

“Ashley Diamond has been tortured and the U.S. Constitution does not allow this,” said Dinielli during a Monday conference call with reporters. “Three years of torture is enough.”

Diamond had already filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections before the Southern Poverty Law Center agreed to represent her.

A federal judge in Georgia earlier this month ruled a trans inmate at the same prison in which Diamond is housed had a viable constitutional claim against state corrections officials who had refused to treat her gender-identity disorder. Another federal judge on May 2 ordered the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections to provide hormones to a trans woman who had received them since she was 18.

A federal appeals court in 2010 ruled the Florida Department of Corrections’ refusal to provide a trans man hormone treatment while incarcerated violated the Eighth Amendment. Massachusetts prison officials last week told the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston that a trans woman serving a life sentence for killing her spouse more than two decades ago does not need taxpayer-funded sex reassignment surgery.

Janetta Johnson of the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project, a group that works with low-income trans people who are either in prison or were once incarcerated, told reporters during the Southern Poverty Law Center conference call that she did not have access to hormone treatment while serving her sentence.

She said she and other trans inmates were “constantly mocked and mistreated” while in custody. Johnson added she also suffered emotional and psychological abuse “on the inside” until her May 2012 release.

“It’s common sense to most people that adequate, culturally competent health care for transgender people is so vital, no matter where you are,” she said. “The prison system needs to be held much more accountable.”

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution on Tuesday reported the Georgia Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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