Elton John and Michael Stipe have released a joint statement in support of transgender prisoners in the state of Georgia, following harrowing reports about the way inmates have been treated there. "Transgender women in male prisons have an equal right to protection from violence and abuse in prison, yet they continue to face horrific injustices," the duo wrote. They also praised the U.S. Department of Justice for supporting an inmate named Ashley Diamond in her struggle to get hormone treatment in prison. John is the founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and Stipe is a longtime supporter of the organization.
In their statement, they referenced both Diamond and another prisoner named Zahara Green. Diamond's story came to light in February when she sued several people operating different levels of the Georgia prison system for refusing to give her necessary hormone treatments and failure to prevent her from being sexually assaulted, among other claims. The Justice Department backed her suit last week, according to The New York Times.
Green's story came to light last year when Buzzfeed reported that she – an inmate at a Georgia prison for men – had requested protection after being allegedly sexually assaulted but was then moved to a cell with the man she claimed had raped her.
"The experiences of Ashley Diamond and Zahara Green cast a harsh light on the brutality, torture and horrible conditions inside Georgia prisons today," John and Stipe wrote. "They are emblematic of the continued discrimination experienced by transgender inmates – who are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted while incarcerated." They go on to say that most sexual assaults are not reported, because, they claim, members of the prison staff are often the perpetrators.
"This is outrageous, and the message it sends is horrific: that violence against and discrimination of trans people is not only allowed, but sanctioned," the musicians wrote. "We applaud the U.S. Department of Justice for supporting Ashley Diamond and the trans community in arguing that Georgia's policy of denying transgender inmates their medically necessary hormone treatment is unconstitutional.
"But we must do more to end the culture of violence and discrimination surrounding gender identity and expression," they continued. "We urge the state of Georgia to embrace desperately needed changes to their correctional system."
In addition to their social causes (John recently called for a boycott of Dolce & Gabbana over one designer's homophobic remark), both John and Stipe have been active musically. The "Rocket Man" singer is set to appear at New Orleans Jazz Fest, which kicks off later this month, and at San Francisco's Outside Lands in August. Stipe made a rare appearance singing at Patti Smith's birthday concert this past December.