A new law signed on Saturday by Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) allows transgender inmates within the Californian prison system to be housed according to their gender identity.
The law states that prison officers must privately ask inmates during the intake process which gender they identify as, be it transgender, nonbinary or intersex. If the inmate expresses one of those identities, they can request a move to a facility that houses their preferred gender.
There is a codicil to the new law, however. If the state has “management or security concerns,” it will provide a written explanation of why the inmate has been denied the opportunity to be housed according to his or her gender identity.
Inmates who are denied their requests will be given a “meaningful opportunity” to appeal, the Associated Press reported.
“The law says the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation cannot deny those requests solely because of inmates’ anatomy, sexual orientation or ‘a factor present’ among other inmates at the facility,” the outlet reported.
Prison officers will be required to address inmates according to their preferred pronouns. Inmates will also be searched “based on the search policy of their gender identity,” the AP reported.
The provision is designed to protect transgender men instead of transgender women as the state does not believe that men will claim to be women to gain access to female inmates.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who authored the bill signed by Newsom, stated that transgender people are routinely victimised in prison.
“It’s just a false narrative about transgender people and about transgender women in particular that they’re somehow not really women and are just trying to scam their way into women’s bathrooms or facilities in order to do bad things,” Wiener told the AP. “Overwhelmingly the people who are being victimized are trans people.”
An inmate who identifies as a woman, Michelle Calvin, stated during a news conference that she was abused and disrespected for being a transgender woman.
“It means a lot to me and my sisters,” Calvin stated “I’ve been in for 15 years. I’ve been through the abuse, I’ve been through the disrespect of staff not addressing me for who I am because I am a woman.”
Connecticut passed a similar law in 2018. Rhode Island, New York City and Massachusetts have also housed inmates based on their gender identity.
Other countries outside of the U.S are also considering allowing transgender inmates to dictate where they will be housed inside the prison system. Scotland is currently considering the transition to the new woke policy.