Bill would give transgender inmates in California jails civil rights protections

Transgender Inmates

California has come one step closer to passing legislation that would expand civil rights protections for transgender people in California jails. Photo: iStock/powerofforever

California came one step closer to passing legislation that would expand civil rights protections for transgender people in California jails.

In a unanimous, bipartisan Senate vote of 31-0, the Dignity and Opportunity Act — S. B. 990 —  authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) was passed by the Senate.. It next moves to the Assembly for consideration.

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“Transgender people – like all people – deserve basic rights when they are in correctional facilities,” Wiener said in a statement. “This includes the right to affirm their gender and have equal access to services including programming and the opportunity to work.”

The bill, which was passed May 30, makes several provisions:

  • Requires correctional facilities to allow people in custody to register their preferred gender identity and first name, according to a bill fact sheet. Facility staff must address the person as the gender and name they prefer.
  • To protect these individuals while in custody, they would be kept outside the general population.
  • Transgender women must be given full access to programming and work opportunities. Transgender woman are at higher risk of sexual abuse, attacks, and verbal abuse because they’re often housed in male facilities, where they also are placed in solitary confinement for their protection, according to authorities from Wiener’s office. As a result, they are prevented from participating in work opportunities and restricted from access to programming.
  • S.B. 990 will not apply to anyone who is placed in solitary or removed from general population for violations.

“This critical legislation will help eliminate harassment and abuse in our prisons, while reducing isolation and recidivism,” Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, said in the statement.

S.B. 990 is sponsored by the ACLU California, Equality California, and Lambda Legal. It also has the support of National Center for Lesbian Rights, TGI Justice Project, Transgender Law Center, and other LGBTQ, HIV, and public health organizations.

About the author

Beatriz E. Valenzuela

Beatriz E. Valenzuela is an award-winning journalist who’s covered breaking news in Southern California since 2006 and has been on the front lines of national and international news events. She also covers all things nerd, including comic book culture and video games. She’s an amateur obstacle course racer, constant fact-checker, mother of three, and lover of all things geek.