As a new training center rises on the grounds of the Floyd County Jail, demolition is underway inside to provide space for a medical pod with a mental health wing.
The $7.4 million project is funded through two special purpose, local option sales tax packages.
The 2013 SPLOST provided $2.2 million to expand the existing clinic, which has just five cells. One is padded, for inmates in crisis, and one has a separate ventilation system to house inmates with contagious diseases.
Voters approved another $5.2 million in 2017 to fund a complete makeover of one of the pods in the facility at 2526 New Calhoun Highway, for a total of 60 beds. The first phase involves moving the staff training area out of the pod, into a prefabricated metal building.
Carroll Daniel Construction of Gainesville won the contract, which includes the larger Phase II: a clinic for inmates who need medical attention and a section for those inmates with substance abuse issues or mental illnesses.
What won’t be provided is a separate area for transgender inmates, Sheriff Tim Burkhalter said, despite a lawsuit filed against the jail early this month that demands one.
“I haven’t been served. I haven’t seen it,” Burkhalter said Saturday.
Ashley Alton Diamond, 41, filed the civil rights complaint Oct. 2 in U.S. District Court. Diamond won a $250,000 settlement from the state of Georgia in 2016 after charging that the prison where she was serving a term for burglary failed to provide treatment for her gender dysphoria.
Diamond, of Rome, identifies as female and had been undergoing hormone therapy. During her time in prison, her body reverted to its masculine state.
Diamond was released on parole in August 2016, but was arrested in Rome this August on misdemeanor obstruction and felony escape charges, along with parole and probation violations.
In the lawsuit, Diamond contends she is being denied proper care in the Floyd County Jail and makes allegations of mental and physical abuse. In addition to damages, she’s asking for the jail “to provide trans inmates ... a place where they can have access to everything regular inmates have.”
Diamond was initially housed in O Block, an area broadly reserved for inmates with “special needs.” The complaint likens it to solitary confinement. However, Burkhalter said that was recently changed.
Diamond was recently moved to the men’s general population in order to have visitation, Burkhalter said. The sheriff said that move was done at the request of Diamond’s family.
The sheriff also said Diamond is the only transgender inmate he’s aware of that has ever been brought to the jail, so special accommodations aren’t in the new medical wing design.
“For someone who makes as many complaints as (Diamond) does, (Diamond) sure is a frequent customer,” Burkhalter said.
Diamond has a lengthy record that includes several local arrests since 2016, but she was housed in the jail’s booking area until she posted bail. Bail was denied on some of the current charges, which include a warrant for failure to appear for a court date.
Prior to being sent to prison in 2012, Diamond had filed a similar federal lawsuit against the Floyd County Jail. It was dismissed without prejudice by U.S. Magistrate Judge Walter E. Johnson after several failed attempts to get her to either pay the $350 filing fee or request pauper status.
The 2016 settlement was facilitated by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It resulted in a new policy at state prisons requiring treatment plans for inmates with verified gender dysphoria.