April 24, 2015 -Claims that a transgender woman was mistreated at a Georgia prison inspired Elton John to call for equal rights for transgender inmates. In a recently released statement, John stated that transgender women housed in male prisons should be afforded the equal right to protection from violence and abuse while in prison, but that they somehow continue to be put in situations where they must endure horrific injustices.
The Justice Department responded to the situation by assuring the public that prison officials must approach inmate gender identity condition the same as they would any other medical or mental health condition. Attention was brought to the subject after a lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center in February against Georgia Department of Corrections officials. The suit was on behalf of a transgender woman named Ashley Diamond.
In the February lawsuit, it is alleged that prison officials did not maintain proper treatment for Ashley Diamond, a 36-year-old prisoner with gender dysphoria. Allegations were made that Diamond was forced to go without hormone treatment for three years, that her body suffered as a result of the halted hormone treatments, and that she was both sexually assaulted and ridiculed as a result of her situation while in prison.
Elton John, founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, stated that in many cases, assaults such as those that Diamond suffered go unreported because the perpetrators are prison guards, wardens or other staff members. It sends a horrible message that violence and discriminatory behavior is not only allowed, but also sanctioned by the prison system when in relation to trans people.
A judge ordered California’s corrections department to make sex-reassignment surgery available to a transgender inmate. This is the first time such an operation has been ordered by the state of California.