Men identifying as trans to switch California prisons are attacking incarcerated women, women’s group says

Men identifying as trans to switch California prisons are attacking incarcerated women, women’s group says
San Francisco Chronicle
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Women have become prey for “female-identifying” inmates in Californian prisons. A California law is being blasted by women’s rights groups for allowing transgender inmates to pick the gendered prison of their choice, citing abuse of females by men. 

In a letter to Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) accused the state of violating the constitutional rights of incarcerated women and subjecting them to “physical, psychological, and emotional harm” by allowing men into their living quarters to “prey on women.” 

“Under the law as written, there is no method to screen out males who genuinely self-identify as transgender from those who are using the system to prey on women. Even if sincere self-identification was the criterion for transfer, however, it would not mitigate or remove the danger posed to women. A 2009 report found 20% of trans-identified men in California are sex offenders, and 50% have committed crimes against persons,” the letter reads. 

“Those running the prison system know how dangerous conditions have become for the women in California state custody. Many of the correctional officers have openly acknowledged that they expect the women will be raped and assaulted, there will likely be pregnancies, and, in general,  the environment will be ripe for exploitation of the women and challenging to control.”

The WoLF has received numerous complaints from women who have been subject to abuse and traumatized at the hands of male inmates who transferred to their prisons, WoLF Legal Director Lauren Adams said.

“We are working with a woman who was punched in the face so hard by a new transfer that she couldn’t chew for three days. He was taken away and released back in a different yard with no restrictions,” Adams said. “He was her cellmate. She had to sleep with him.”

Adams added that many women who have been sexually abused in the past now have to share communal showers with nude men. 

“One woman went in there with two naked men showering who still had penises,” Adams added. “It was incredibly traumatic and scary, to know for, [possibly], the rest of their lives they are going to be subjected to this.”

The state currently has 273 transfer requests. 266 of the requestees are housed at male institutions and are seeking to be transferred to female institutions, while only seven from female institutions are requesting a transfer to male institutions. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), the state has 1,286 inmates who identify as transgender or nonbinary.

So far, 24 male prisoners have been transferred to female institutions. WoLF speculates that many of the male inmates looking to transfer to women’s prisons are not transgender, but are looking to escape their current living situation. 

“A lot of these men checking the box and trying to get transfers are probably trying to save their lives. I wouldn’t want to be in the men’s prison,” Adams said. “You are giving them a way to get out of that, but now it’s the women who are in danger.”

Many female inmates in state prison have been abused at some point in their lives, with many who have been sexually assaulted. Having to share a cell with a biological man, or shower with them is a traumatic experience, Adams added. 

State law requires a committee to vet the transfers, but a considerable number of violent men have slipped through the vetting. One male transfer was convicted of assaulting two boys, aged six and eight, whereas another inmate was convicted of several counts of forcible rape, and still has his penis, Adams said. 

A CDCR spokesperson told the Washington Examiner the transfer process includes “a thorough review of the incarcerated person’s history prior to and during incarceration, their crime, arrest and criminal history, trial and sentencing documentation, medical and mental health needs ...”

WoLF has requested that the governor stop all new transfers and remove inmates who have already transferred until a thorough safety assessment can be conducted.

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