Win: Georgia to Allow Hormone Therapy for Trans Inmates
Today, the state of Georgia announced it would stop enforcing its blanket denial of new hormone therapy for transgender inmates. The decision came in response to a high profile lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on behalf of transgender inmate Ashley Diamond, which was recently publicly supported by the US Department of Justice. According to the decision, transgender inmates would now be provided with “constitutionally appropriate medical and mental health treatment.”
In prior circumstance the state willfully enforced its “freeze-frame” policy that prevented transgender inmates from starting or expanding hormone treatment in prison, only allowing whatever previous treatment inmates may have begun before entering prison. The US Department of Justice rebuked this practice in a brief supporting Diamond, explaining that Georgia prisons violated their constitutional obligation to assess and treat gender dysphoria as they would with any other inmate’s medical condition.
The three-hour long emergency hearing was convened in response to the Justice Department’s intervention as well as profile published by The New York Times earlier this week. The federal district court considered an emergency motion for Diamond’s immediate transfer to a lower-level prison, or better protection in her current facility at Georgia State Prison, an all-male facility. Aside from seeking appropriate medical treatment, Diamond has also alleged she was raped seven times.
Georgia’s response, which continuously referred to Diamond by male pronouns, challenged her claim that she was sent to Georgia State as punishment for her lawsuit (filed in February) and that she has never been sexually assaulted. Rather, the state countered that it had offered her “protective custody,” a kind of solitary confinement that many prison systems use with transgender inmates that she refused. Diamond previously endured protective custody at a prior facility and, like many other transgender inmates, she attempted to castrate and kill herself.
The use of prolonged “protective custody” contradicts rules established by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) that say only under extreme circumstances and only for short-term periods should inmates be “locked down” in protective custody. Furthermore, PREA says that correctional agencies should consider each case individually in deciding where to house a transgender inmate based on their vulnerability to sexual assault. Disgracefully, most jails and prisons in the United States disregard the rule and continue to automatically assign transgender women to male facilities and place them at serious risk for sexual harassment, assault, and violence.
SPLC lawyers say they’re reviewing the new medical policy and pleased to see some progress for Diamond, however an appropriate housing assignment has not been resolved.
The National Center for Transgender Equality applauds SPLC’s efforts on behalf of Diamond and other transgender prisoners and will continue to monitor Diamond’s case as it unfolds.
For resources and information about transgender people in jails and prisons, please refer to our website here.