Sir Elton John and former R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe have issued a public call for "better protections" for transgender inmates in male prisons, saying they "continue to face horrific injustices," such as sexual assault.
In a joint statement John's rep released to E! News this week, the two musicians cite cases of two transgender women, Ashley Diamond, currently in jail for several offenses—the most major one being burglary, and Zahara Green, who served almost two years in jail for shoplifting and was released last year. Both were sentenced in Georgia and have claimed in lawsuits they were sexually assaulted behind bars, according to Buzzfeed.
"Transgender women in male prisons have an equal right to protection from violence and abuse in prison, and yet they continue to face horrific injustices," said John, who heads the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and Stipe, a supporter of the group. "The experiences of Ashley Diamond and Zahara Green cast a harsh light on the brutality, torture, and horrible conditions inside Georgia prisons today. They are emblematic of the continued discrimination experienced by transgender inmates—who are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted while incarcerated."
Georgia state officials have not replied to John and Stipe's comments.
In her suit, Diamond says she was raped in jail at least seven times by inmates, The New York Times reported. The facility where she is serving her sentence, Georgia State Prison, had more sexual assaults between 2009 and 2014 than all but one other state prison, the outlet reported.
Diamond also says that the state of Georgia has denied her the hormone treatments she had been taking for 17 years, which had prompted her to undergo physical changes that have led to her attempt suicide, the outlet said.
The U.S. Justice Department this week stated that denying her such treatments was unconstitutional and "violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment."
In their statement, John and Stipe say they "applaud" the decision, adding, "But we must do more to end the culture of violence and discrimination surrounding gender identity and expression. We urge the state of Georgia to embrace desperately needed changes to their correctional system."