Erik S. Lesser / AFP / Getty Images

Transgender former inmate settles with prison officials

Lawsuit alleging prison officials failed to provide adequate gender dysphoria treatment dropped after settlement reached

The state of Georgia has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by Ashley Diamond, a transgender former inmate whose case drew the attention of the Justice Department after she complained prison officials didn't provide adequate treatment for her gender identity condition.

Court records show Diamond, 37, voluntarily dismissed her lawsuit Thursday. The state agreed to pay $250,000 to settle the lawsuit, said Nick Genesi, a spokesman for Attorney General Sam Olens.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which filed the lawsuit on Diamond's behalf, disputes that. 

"The amount specified by the attorney general's office is not an accurate representation of the final settlement award," attorney Chinyere Ezie said in an emailed statement. "Because the SPLC is bound by confidentiality, we are unable to disclose the total settlement amount."

Filed nearly a year ago, the suit said prison officials failed to provide adequate treatment for Diamond's gender dysphoria, a condition causing a person to experience extreme distress because of a disconnect between birth sex and gender identity.

"Our lawsuit and Ashley Diamond's bravery brought about important changes in Georgia and have put prison officials across the country on notice about the constitutional rights of transgender persons," Ezie said.

Diamond has identified as female since she was a child and began hormone therapy when she was 17, giving her full breasts, a feminine shape, softer skin and a feminine appearance, her lawsuit said.

She had noticeable feminine physical characteristics and told prison staff during intake that she was transgender and was receiving hormone therapy, but she wasn't evaluated for gender dysphoria and wasn't referred for treatment, and her hormone therapy was stopped, her lawsuit said. The Department of Corrections policy at the time said only inmates identified as transgender during their initial screenings were eligible for gender dysphoria treatment, the lawsuit said.

Without the hormone treatment for three years, Diamond's body suffered a painful physical transformation back to its masculine state, and she experienced severe mental anguish, the lawsuit said. She was also ridiculed by inmates and prison staff and was sexually assaulted by inmates because she wasn't offered safe accommodation, the lawsuit said.

The Justice Department weighed in on the case in April, filing a brief that said prison officials must treat an inmate's gender identity condition just as they would treat any other medical or mental health condition. The filing said the department wasn't taking a position on the accuracy of Diamond's allegations, but it reminded prison officials that the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires them to provide inmates with individualized assessment and care for the condition.

Just four days later, Georgia implemented a new policy to ensure that inmates with a possible gender dysphoria diagnosis are evaluated by qualified medical and mental health professionals, including an assessment of the inmate's treatment and experiences before entering prison.

A treatment plan will be developed to address the physical and mental health of any inmate diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the new policy says. The plan should take into account prior treatment but will also be reviewed and updated as necessary.

A Department of Corrections spokeswoman said at the time that the agency updated its policy to bring it more in line with that used by the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Records show Diamond was released on parole Aug. 31 after serving about a third of her 12-year sentence for burglary and other convictions.

The Associated Press

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