Transgendered woman in Georgia feeling the brunt of prison system's 'concern'
Posted Apr 21st, 2015 04:22 PM by Mark Kernes
ROME, Georgia—One might think it's a no-brainer that people who are forced to spend time behind bars shouldn't have rape and sexual molestation added to their punishment. That's what the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), finalized in 2012, was supposed to take care of.
Under the PREA, states were required to "audit" at least one-third of their prison facilities—that is, ferret out complaints of rape and other unwanted sexual advances—by May 15, 2014, while restrictions on male guards patting down and searching female inmates in prisons, jails, and community confinement facilities are supposed to be completed by August 20 of this year.
Didn't happen, at least in seven Republican-controlled states—Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, Texas and Utah—and several of those are claiming that it's either impossible to implement the program or that PREA is simply a bad idea.
According to Mother Jones magazine, "Under the law, prisons are required to maintain a 'zero-tolerance policy' regarding sexual abuse, perform background checks on prospective staff, prevent juveniles from being housed with adult inmates, provide external and anonymous channels for prisoners to report sexual abuse, and provide physical and mental health care to victims."
Common sense, right?
But Indiana Governor Mike Pence wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder on last year's deadline date, saying that the new standards "work only to bind the states, and hinder the evolution of even better and safer practices." (He, of course, gave no details as to what those "better and safer practices" would be.)
"A number of PREA guidelines conflict with other federal regulations, as well as state laws and other nationally recognized detention standards," Pence claimed in his letter to Holder. "These conflicts would, in all likelihood, increase Indiana's exposure to litigation and liability."
Idaho Gov. "Butch" Otter also wrote to Holder, claiming that the law had "too much red tape," while then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry called the law "counterproductive" and "unnecessarily cumbersome," adding that the prison rape rules "appear to have been created in a vacuum with little regard for input from those who daily operate state prisons and local jails.?" (Texas' current governor, Greg Abbott, did not respond to requests for his position on PREA, but a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said that its goal is to be "as compliant as possible with PREA standards without jeopardizing the safety and security of our institutions.")
The problem, of course is that "those who daily operate state prisons and local jails" are sometimes themselves the rapists/molesters, especially in situations where male guards are "guarding" female inmates while they take showers and pee, for instance, and beyond that, it should be common sense that putting juvenile detainees in close contact with imprisoned felons (some of whom are child molesters) is a really bad idea.
"An estimated 4 percent of state and federal prison inmates and over 3 percent of jail inmates reported experiencing at least one sexual assault in the previous year, according to the Justice Department," Dana Liebelson of Mother Jones reported.
Nowhere has this problem been more apparent than in the case of Georgia prison inmate Ashley Diamond, a transgendered woman who's been serving her sentence in one male prison or other for the past three years—only to be repeatedly raped and harassed by the other inmates owing to her female characteristics, and until recently, she was denied the hormones necessary to maintain her gender reassignment. Almost needless to say, Diamond had to sue, with the backing of the Southern Poverty Law Center, to receive the hormone treatments, but just yesterday, Judge Marc T. Treadwell of the U.S. District Court denied Diamond's motion to be transferred to a lower-security prison, after previously having refused to allow her to be transferred to a women's prison.
"While that might well be 'the optimum solution,' higher courts have warned district judges 'not to second-guess prison authorities,'" The New York Times reported Treadwell as saying, adding that "Ms. Diamond had not proved their 'deliberate indifference' to her fear of sexual assault and harassment." Because, as everyone knows, Georgia prison guards and administrations are only too happy to help keep racial and sexual minorities (of which Diamond is both) safe!
Diamond is currently housed in the prison's smallest unit, designed for "rape victims and for inmates with special mental health needs," which has individual cells for all eleven inmates there.
"Ms. Diamond, however, testified that she had been sexually harassed, threatened and forced to pay protection money since her arrival," The Times reported. "She said she had not gone to the mess hall for 17 days because she feared encounters with maximum-security inmates there. ... The prison's psychologist was subpoenaed by Ms. Diamond's lawyers but did not appear in court on Monday; state officials said he had taken suddenly ill. Ms. Diamond said in court that the psychologist had told her that he was afraid he would lose his job if he testified 'truthfully.'"
Pictured: Ashley Diamond in better days.
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