Ashley Diamond, the Georgia inmate whose plight has become a rallying point for transgender rights, was denied her request for transfer to lower-security housing following a hearing on Monday during which she gave harrowing testimony on her experience in the state prison.
Judge Marc T. Treadwell of United States District Court said transferring Diamond to a lower-security prison where she would be less vulnerable to rape and assault might be "the optimum solution," but said higher courts had warned district judges "not to second-guess prison authorities," the New York Times reports.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which represents Diamond, filed the emergency motion for transfer earlier this month. Diamond entered the Georgia correctional system in 2012, where she was processed as a male inmate and placed in men's housing, despite declaring to officials that she was a woman. Until last March, she was denied the hormone treatments she had been taking for the past 17 years. She also endured seven rapes and attempts at suicide and self-castration, according to a lawsuit she filed earlier this year in a bid to restart hormone therapy.
State officials are allowing Diamond to receive "constitutionally appropriate medical and mental health treatment" after an intervention in March by the Justice Department. But Treadwell on Monday pointed to that development as evidence that prison authorities had not shown "deliberate indifference" to Diamond's fear of assault and harassment.
Diamond said she had been sent to Georgia State Prison, which houses violent male offenders, as retaliation for her lawsuit. She testified during Monday's hearing that she had been raped, threatened, and forced to pay protection money since her arrival. Officials told her the attacks were her own fault, she said, which eventually led to her internalizing the blame.
"If I wasn't so feminine, maybe if I didn't talk the way I talked or move the way I moved, I would be less of a victim that way," Diamond testified. "I also feel a little less human because when I did report things, the very people I wanted help from, Your Honor, would tell me things like, 'You brought this on yourself.'"
Treadwell argued that the move was a "positive" reaction to the lawsuit. State officials said Diamond was housed in a unit for rape survivors and prisoners with special mental health needs. Her prison psychologist, who was subpoenaed by Diamond's lawyers, did not appear in court on Monday. Officials said he had taken ill.
David Dinielli, one of Diamond's lawyers and the deputy legal director for the SPLC told 13 WMAZ after the hearing, "Our focus remains on Ashley Diamond, who's making certain every day that she remains safe and gets the care that she needs."
"We're happy that at least lawyers are indicating that they want to take additional precaution to keep our client safe," Dinielli continued. "It remains unclear and to be tested that those precautions will work. The judge made very clear that if anything happens to Ms. Diamond, the Georgia Department of Corrections has an obligation to immediately tell us and to tell the court. All eyes would be on them, and we surely hope Ms. Diamond remains safe."
Treadwell clarified that he had not made any final ruling on Diamond's case, but a new hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Before being taken back to prison on Monday, Diamond told her mother and sister, who were present, that she was not done fighting. "It's just the beginning," she said. "Y'all stay strong."