January 19, 2023

Ashley Diamond
Ashley Diamond, a transgender woman incarcerated in a Savannah-area men’s prison, is suing the Georgia Department of Corrections for a second time alleging rampant sexual abuse and neglect. (Instagram screenshot edited to remove comments and caption) Credit: Instagram

Lawsuit: GA prisons fail trans inmates

UPDATE: Ashley Diamond, the transgender woman who sued the Georgia Department of Corrections, decided not to go forward with the trial, according to a court document on Wednesday. Her lawyers and the GDC are working on an official dismissal, the document showed.

Jury selection is underway in a lawsuit brought by a transgender woman who says she has endured at least eight sexual assaults in a Savannah-area prison, has been denied gender-affirming health care, and has been routinely ignored by officials after seeking transfer to a women’s prison.

The lawsuit filed by Ashley Diamond, 42, is the second she has pursued against the Georgia Department of Corrections. Her 2015 suit alleged the department failed to protect her from sexual violence and denied her care to treat her “gender dysphoria,” a medical condition where a person’s gender identity is misaligned with their birth sex causing psychological distress. Diamond’s lawsuit made national headlines and prompted a settlement, proposed policy changes in Georgia state prisons, and an investigation and statement by the Department of Justice. 

Diamond, originally convicted for robbery and other charges, was abruptly released from prison in 2015. Four years later, she violated the terms of her parole by traveling out of state to get medical treatment, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group representing her case.

As a result, Diamond was put back into men’s prisons, including Coastal State Prison in Garden City, where she was held in 2020 when the suit was filed. While at Coastal, she said she faced rampant abuse from other inmates and harassment from staff. The eight assaults at the prison drove her to the point of attempted self-castration and suicide, according to the lawsuit complaint. 

Diamond was released on parole again in August 2022.

Coastal State Prison Warden Brooks Benton, GDC Commissioner Timothy Ward, and other GDC employees denied Diamond’s allegations.

Read more about Diamond’s case and the allegations of abuse in the Department of Corrections.

Greg McMichael prison mugshot
Greg McMichael’s prison mugshot Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections

Arbery killer heads to medical prison

One GDC inmate who does appear to be receiving sought-after medical care from the Georgia prison system is Gregory McMichael.

On Jan. 10, the GDC transferred McMichael, convicted alongside his son and another man in the murder of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery, to Augusta State Medical Prison. He was previously being held at a diagnostic prison in Jackson, Ga.

A department spokesperson declined to provide the reason for the transfer. But McMichael’s new prison specializes in “centralized acute, specialized medical and Level IV Mental Health services for male and female offenders,” according to the GDC’s website. The prison “house(s) severe medical cases,” and its security level is “close security,” the highest level of security in the system.

Before a federal judge sentenced McMichael to life in prison last year, his lawyer wrote in a court filing that McMichael had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and dealt with it for over 20 years.

Ammunition Credit: Jay Rembert/Unsplash

Gun Bullet control?

Why aren’t bullets regulated like firearms? Our friends at The Trace tried to answer that question.

While federal rules exist that people barred from buying guns are barred from buying bullets, the rule is largely unenforced. Bullet purchases are exempt from federal background checks, and there are no regulations in place that gun shops have to keep track of those sales and report them to law enforcement.

There is little evidence to support bullet regulations can affect gun violence (because so few states have tried to regulate them). Advocates say regulations that flag large purchases of ammo could prevent mass shootings. The 2012 Aurora mass shooting and 2017 Las Vegas massacre were preceded by large ammo purchases.

Meanwhile, gun advocates say this would be cumbersome for gun owners, like hunters, who go through ammunition quickly.

No such gun regulations exist in Georgia nor have any bills been introduced in recent legislative sessions.

Earlier this month, the “Everytown for Gun Safety” organization wrote Georgia “has some of the weakest gun laws in the country.” That’s because state legislators passed laws last year allowing gun owners to have a concealed handgun in public without a permit and requiring universities to allow lawful gun owners to bring guns on campus.

marco polo Georgia Ports
The container ship CMA CGM Marco Polo heads down river from the Georgia Ports Authority’s Port of Savannah Garden City Terminal in May 2021 in Savannah, Ga. Credit: Georgia Ports Authority

One more thing: Boost for ports police

Local Savannah lawmakers want to see police officers with the Georgia Ports Authority have more … well, authority — about one mile of it.

A bill introduced last Friday in the Georgia General Assembly seeks to expand the powers of Georgia Ports Authority Police Department officers to investigate crimes and respond to car crashes within a mile of port jurisdiction.

As it stands now, a crash just outside of the gates of the Savannah Port terminal could not be worked by a nearby port police officer, but instead by the closest local police department, according to Georgia Rep. Ron Stephens, a co-sponsor of the bill. Port officers are limited to the confines of port property. Stephens said the bill could lead to quicker response times and save lives.

The need for this bill speaks to the massive growth of Savannah’s port, Stephens said.

“When I was a kid growing up, the backside of my house was the fence for the Georgia Ports property in Garden City. At that time, they were called Georgia Ports guards … it was mostly for security,” Stephens said. “Now things have changed enormously and it’s a juggernaut, extremely fast-growing operation.

“There is a need going in and coming out of the ports gates to have public safety there,” he said.

Have a question, comment or story idea? Email me at jakeshore.thecurrent@gmail.com.

Ashley Diamond won a legal victory to protect incarcerated trans people in 2016. Now, she’s suing again.

Ashley Diamond currently incarcerated at Coastal State Prison near Savannah says she’s faced rampant sexual assault and denied gender affirming health care while under charge of Georgia Department of Corrections.

Continue reading…

Why is it easier to buy bullets than cold medicine?

Buying bullets is subject to less scrutiny by authorities than buying firearms in the U.S. The practice used to be more heavily regulated and advocates say tracking of large ammo purchases can prevent mass shootings.

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Greg McMichael seeks leniency in Arbery hate crime sentencing

Greg McMichael, convicted in the murder of jogger Ahmaud Arbery and for hate crimes, is asking for a federal prison stay over Georgia state prison ahead of a Brunswick sentencing hearing.

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Economists: Port of Savannah to weather expected recession well

As “essential infrastructure,” ports are expected to fare well in 2023 even if a recession hits, according to Fitch Ratings.

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Jake Shore covers public safety and the courts system in Savannah and Coastal Georgia. He is also a Report for America corps member. Prior to joining The Current, Jake worked for the Island Packet and...