·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

Georgia to Pay $2.2m to Family of Transgender Inmate Who Committed Suicide

— December 8, 2021

Guards allegedly laughed after another inmate informed them that Jenna Mitchell had committed suicide in her cell.

The Georgia Department of Corrections will pay $2.2 million to the family of a transgender woman who committed suicide in an all-male prison.

According to CNN, the settlement is among the largest wrongful death settlements in the history of Georgia’s prison system, awarded shortly after the federal Department of Justice announced a sweeping civil rights investigation into allegations of abuse in state prisons.

The New York Daily News reports that Jenna Mitchell hung herself on December 4, 2017, while serving a 10-year sentence at Valdosta State Prison.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Mitchell family, said that corrections officers failed to keep Jenna safe after she threatened to commit suicide multiple times.

Despite the award, Mitchell’s mother, Sheba Maree, told CNN that “the financial settlement is barely nudging any kind of justice.”

Image via Rennett Stowe/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons. (CCA-BY-2.0)

“I’d rather have my child,” Maree said. “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.”

Mitchell, said her mother, “had a history of mental illness, was suffering from gender identity issues, and had engaged in a pattern of suicidal and self-harming behavior.”

Just two days before her death, Mitchell wrote a letter expressing her desire to pull a “suicide student.”

Mitchell had, at the time of the letter’s writing, been in solitary confinement for more than two weeks.

According to Maree, Mitchell had been shifted in and out of solitary for at least eight to nine months before her suicide.

CNN notes that, shortly before her suicide attempt, Mitchell told the guards that she was going to try to kill herself.

Similarly, an inmate orderly tried to alert corrections staff and supervisors.

However, the orderly said that, when corrections officers finally did respond, they taunted Mitchell and encouraged her to commit suicide.

“Okay,” one said, “what are you waiting for? Go for it.”

After the guard walked away, the inmate orderly said he approached Mitchell’s cell, where he found her hanging from a vent.

When the inmate orderly alerted guards to Mitchell’s suicide, they allegedly “smirked,” laughed, and took over 10 minutes to walk to her cell to investigate.

Civil rights attorney David Shanies, who represented the family, said that Valdosta only performed a “superficial” investigation into the incident.

“The lack of any meaningful investigation was shocking and inexcusable. Prison guards stood by and let a person die in front of their eyes,” Shanies said. “It is deeply unsettling.”


$2.2 million settlement for family of transgender woman who died in Georgia men’s prison

Family gets $2.2 million settlement for death of Georgia inmate, calls for criminal investigation

Family of trans woman who died by suicide in Georgia men’s prison gets $2.2 million settlement

Join the conversation!