March 25, 2023

Some incarcerated women express fear after new California law allows transgender inmates to select housing

Since January, 261 California prison inmates who are biologically male but self-identify as female have requested transfers to women’s prisons, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports, after a new bill was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom signed S.B. 132 into law in January. The law requires the state corrections department to ask every individual entering its custody to specify their gender pronoun and identity, and to declare if they identify as transgender, nonbinary or intersex.

The bill was authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who also authored a bill that relaxed sex offender registry requirements for sodomy and other acts with minors to reportedly end “discrimination against LGBTQ young people on the sex offender registry,” according to Weiner. Newsom signed the controversial registry bill into law.

The new prison law requires the corrections department to house inmates in a “correctional facility designated for men or women based on the individual’s preference.” California’s law is similar to ones passed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York City.

It prevents the corrections department from disciplining anyone who refuses to answer the gender question, allows for the information to be updated, and requires staff to use the gender pronouns requested by inmates.

Since January, the majority of the inmates, 255, were biological men identifying as transgender women and non-binary, who requested gender-based housing and to be transferred to a female-only facility. Six biological women identifying as transgender men and non-binary requested to be transferred to a male-only facility, according to a statement from Deputy Press Secretary Terry Thornton.

The state, which has not denied any gender-based housing requests, has approved 21 requests so far. Of the 21 requests, four were transferred to Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.

Since the law was implemented, the corrections department says 1,129 inmates have self-identified as transgender, non-binary and intersex.

Prison inmates at Chowchilla told the Los Angeles Times that “men are coming” and female prisoners should expect sexual violence.

“That if we think it’s bad now, be prepared for the worst. That it’s going to be off the hook, it’s going to be jumping,” 41-year-old Tomiekia Johnson told the Times. “They say we’re going to need a facility that’s going to be like a maternity ward. They say we’re going to have an inmate program where inmates become nannies.”

Some female prisoners have expressed fear that male inmates who are requesting transfers are lying about their gender identity in order to be transferred to women’s prisons, the Times reports.

The bill, which passed along party lines, was opposed by conservative and liberal organizations. California Family Council President Jonathan Keller said the state legislature was “increasing dangers for both inmates and correctional officers by attempting to let prisoners self-determine their sex. Even in prison, males and females are guaranteed a constitutional right to privacy. The legislature should not victimize prisoners, especially biological women, by requiring them to allow members of the opposite sex into facilities that are currently female-only or male-only. This bill is a recipe for complete chaos in our state’s correctional facilities.”

The liberal Women’s Liberation Front said the bill “would increase the risk of violence and injury for one of the most vulnerable groups in society: incarcerated women. It would allow any male at any time to self-declare that he has a woman ‘gender identity,’ and on that basis allow him to demand to be housed in a women’s correctional facility.”

The corrections department explains that “a person’s gender identity is self-reported and CDCR will evaluate any request submitted by an incarcerated person for gender-based housing.”

The department has also requested several million dollars from the state in order to implement the transfers under the new law.

This article was originally posted on Some incarcerated women express fear after new California law allows transgender inmates to select housing

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