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Case Name Diamond v. Owens PC-GA-0017
Docket / Court 5:15-cv-00050-MTT ( M.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
The plaintiff in this case is a transgender female. She was denied medically necessary healthcare and suffered repeated sexual assault and harassment throughout her incarceration. The plaintiff suffered from gender dysphoria and—despite her feminine appearance—the defendant assigned her to a ... read more >
The plaintiff in this case is a transgender female. She was denied medically necessary healthcare and suffered repeated sexual assault and harassment throughout her incarceration. The plaintiff suffered from gender dysphoria and—despite her feminine appearance—the defendant assigned her to a maximum-security male prison. In these facilities, transgender inmates often face the highest risk of sexual violence.

The plaintiff brought this action in the Middle District of Georgia on February 19, 2015 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the defendant staff at the Georgia Department of Corrections, Rutledge State Prison, and Valdosta State prison. The plaintiff claimed deliberate indifference to her medical needs in denying medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria, violations of her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment, failure of guards to protect her from serious sexual assault, and failure to train prison personnel regarding transgender inmates' health and safety. Represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and private counsel, the plaintiff requested declaratory relief, compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and a preliminary and permanent injunction requiring the Georgia Department of Corrections to adhere to professional standards of care in treating inmates that suffer from gender dysphoria.

The plaintiff was first imprisoned in 2012. Within the first month of her imprisonment, the plaintiff was sexually assaulted by six gang members. The plaintiff was sexually assaulted by other inmates more than half a dozen times throughout her three-year incarceration. The defendants also denied her medically necessary hormone treatment. But the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for the plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies and failure to state a claim. They also asserted qualified immunity defenses.

In the meantime, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion for a temporary restraining order, on April 20, 2015. At this hearing, the court put consideration of her preliminary injunction on hold to investigate new policies that the Georgia Department of Corrections had implemented since the beginning of the suit. 131 F. Supp. 3d 1353.

Less than five months later, the plaintiff was released from prison. She was only three years into an eight year sentence on August 31, 2015. The court then ruled on the defendants' various motions to dismiss on September 14, 2015. First, the plaintiff's claims for injunctive and declaratory relief were mooted and dismissed without prejudice as a result of her release from prison. The court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's deliberate indifference to a serious medical need claim and failure-to-protect claim because the plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Further, the court held that defendant prison personnel were not entitled to qualified immunity on the plaintiff's deliberate indifference to a serious medical need claim and that the defendant medical director was not entitled to qualified immunity on the failure-to-protect claim. Finally, the court held that the plaintiff sufficiently pleaded that defendant medical director failed to train subordinates regarding the safety of transgender inmates and that this failure resulted in deliberate indifference to Diamond’s constitutional right to reasonable protection—the defendant medical director was not entitled to qualified immunity on this claim.

The parties reached an undisclosed monetary settlement and filed a stipulated dismissal on February 11, 2016.

As a result of the lawsuit, the Georgia Department of Corrections no longer uses the “freeze frame” policy that prohibited transgender inmates from receiving treatment or updating treatment plans as needed. Many transgender inmates in Georgia now receive hormone therapy. Moreover, the defendants have adopted a sexual assault prevention policy that adheres to federal standards. These prevention policies are supplemented by training programs for prison staffers that address the unique needs of transgender inmates. The case is now closed.

Keagan Potts - 02/20/2019
Eva Richardson - 05/22/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Gender identity
General
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Classification / placement
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Grievance Procedures
Prison Rape Elimination Act
Sexual abuse by residents/inmates
Medical/Mental Health
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Georgia Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Transgender female in prison
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Filing Year 2015
Case Closing Year 2016
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Book
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
5:15−cv−00050 (M.D. Ga.)
PC-GA-0017-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Verified Complaint [ECF# 3]
PC-GA-0017-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/19/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 2]
PC-GA-0017-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/20/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States [ECF# 29]
PC-GA-0017-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/03/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order (131 F.Supp.3d 1346) (M.D. Ga.)
PC-GA-0017-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/14/2015
Source: Bloomberg Law
Order [ECF# 68] (131 F.Supp.3d 1346) (M.D. Ga.)
PC-GA-0017-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/14/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Treadwell, Marc Thomas (M.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0002 | PC-GA-0017-0005 | PC-GA-0017-9001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dinielli, David Carter (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0001 | PC-GA-0017-9001
Ezie, A. Chinyere (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0001 | PC-GA-0017-0004 | PC-GA-0017-9001
Knoepp, James Melvin (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0001 | PC-GA-0017-0004 | PC-GA-0017-9001
Wolfe, Samuel (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0001 | PC-GA-0017-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Boyce, Sharonda (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-9001
Crowder, Elizabeth McRary (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-9001
Gore, Deborah Nolan (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-9001
Johnson, David V. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-9001
Tarver, Brett A. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-9001
Other Lawyers Abbate, Julie K. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0003
Brett, Sharon (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0003 | PC-GA-0017-9001
Gupta, Vanita (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0003
Kappelhoff, Mark (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0003
Moore, Michael J. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0003
Preston, Judy C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0003
Snell, Bernard (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0017-0003 | PC-GA-0017-9001

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