TLDEF Applauds Justice Department's Historic Action Supporting Transgender Prisoner's Right To Hormone Treatment

Dept. Of justice logoApril 6, 2015 - The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) responded to news that the United States Department of Justice has filed a brief supporting a transgender prisoner’s right to hormone treatment in her federal case against the Georgia Department of Corrections. This is reportedly the first time the Justice Department has taken action in support of a prisoner’s effort to compel hormone treatment for gender dysphoria, the diagnostic term used to refer to discomfort or distress caused by a difference between a person’s gender identity and their sex assigned at birth.

Ashley Diamond, a 36-year old transgender woman, has been denied hormone treatment since she first entered the Georgia State Prison in 2012. Although she had been receiving hormone treatment for 17 years prior to her incarceration, the Georgia Department of Corrections denied her treatment after she was jailed because it did not identify her as transgender on intake forms. The Justice Department’s brief submitted last Friday explains how her lack of access to health care in the ensuing years has caused Diamond severe physical consequences and psychological distress and led to multiple suicide attempts. The brief concludes: “Failure to provide adequate treatment for transgender inmates with gender dysphoria constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.”

Ms. Diamond filed suit in the U.S. District Court For the Middle District of Georgia in Diamond v. Owens, et al. with the assistance of the Southern Poverty Law Center. In a press release about its brief, the Justice Department stated: “By taking action in this case, the Justice Department is reminding departments of corrections that prison officials have the obligation to assess and treat gender dysphoria just as they would any other medical or mental health condition.” It went on to say that policies excluding such care “can have serious consequences to the health and well-being of transgender prisoners, who are among the most vulnerable populations incarcerated in our nation’s prisons and jails.”

Statement from TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman

“We applaud the Department of Justice for taking this stand in support of health care for transgender prisoners. Treatment for gender dysphoria must be provided on the same terms as treatment for other medical conditions. Denying prisoners like Ashley Diamond the medically necessary care they need violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which bars cruel and unusual punishment. We hope the Justice Department’s strong stance in this case brings a positive outcome for Ashley Diamond and all incarcerated transgender people seeking access to medically necessary care.”