Story at a glance

  • Georgia’s prison system on Monday agreed to pay the family of Jenna Mitchell $2.2 million after Mitchell, a transgender woman held at Valdosta State Prison, hung herself while in solitary confinement.
  • Mitchell’s mother, Sheba Maree, said in a lawsuit prison staff had failed to keep her daughter safe.
  • State prisons in Georgia in recent years have been accused of housing inmates in inhuman condition,s and the Justice Department is currently investigating its treatment of LGBTQ+ prisoners.

Georgia’s prison system on Monday agreed to pay $2.2 million to the parents of a transgender woman who in 2017 hung herself while in solitary confinement at a men’s prison.

The settlement, one of the largest wrongful death payouts in the history of Georgia’s prison system, marked four years to the day since Jenna Mitchell, 25, died at a Georgia hospital after being in a coma for two days.

Mitchell’s family in a lawsuit said Valdosta State Prison, where she had been serving a 10-year sentence, and its staff failed to keep her safe, ignoring her multiple threats of suicide.

According to video surveillance and sworn statements filed as part of the civil suit, Mitchell was left hanging in her cell for several minutes before receiving medical attention, CNN reported


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Mitchell’s mother, Sheba Maree, has called for a criminal investigation into her daughter’s death, believing Mitchell was discriminated against and neglected by corrections officers because she was transgender.

"The financial settlement is barely nudging any kind of justice," Sheba Maree, Mitchell's mother, told CNN. "I'd rather have my child ... nothing will ever, ever, ever, ever take the place of my child. To me, this is blood money, and I will not stop until the people involved with her death are held responsible."

While incarcerated, Mitchell had been in and out of solitary confinement for months and in confinement for more than two weeks before her suicide, NBC News reported

After a prior suicide attempt several days earlier, Mitchell, while in solitary confinement, told a corrections officer she was about to hang herself. The officer then left her alone while he went to alert others.

According to the lawsuit, following Mitchell’s death, the corrections officer that had left her alone wrote up a false incident report to avoid discipline, an investigation or a lawsuit. The prison’s warden approved the report, even though he knew it wasn’t accurate.

State prisons in Georgia in recent years have been accused of housing inmates in inhuman conditions, including feces- and urine-covered cells and prisoner-on-prisoner violence.

The Department of Justice in September launched a probe of Georgia prisons focusing on harm against inmates by other prisoners and the targeting of LGBTQ+ inmates for sexual violence by fellow prisoners and prison staff.

The Justice Department first started investigating Georgia prisons in 2016, when the Georgia Department of Corrections became the subject of an inquiry into the treatment of LGBTQ+ inmates.


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Published on Dec 07, 2021