The Justice Department has extended a helping hand to a transgender Georgia inmate doing hard time in a men's prison, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Underscoring a significant legal turnaround, federal officials say a restrictive Georgia policy for providing health care to inmates with a condition called gender dysphoria violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The federal move assists inmate Ashley Diamond, a Rome, Ga., native who wants to resume taking feminizing hormones while incarcerated. Other transgender inmates in similar circumstances also could be affected if the Justice Department prevails.
Until 2011, the federal Bureau of Prisons maintained the same gender dysphoria policy as the one it's now challenging in Georgia. The federal policy changed under pressure from a lawsuit filed by a transgender inmate at Federal Medical Center, Butner in North Carolina. The North Carolina inmate, born Nicholas Adams but now known as Vanessa, was, like Diamond, originally denied hormone treatments in prison under what's called a “freeze frame” policy. This locks in place the level of medical treatments provided inmates with gender identity problems.