Update: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 132 into law. It will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.
Transgender inmates are at heightened risk of violence, including rape and sexual abuse. The standard practice is to house people according to their sex assigned at birth, but this response can exacerbate the risks for many transgender inmates.
This risk of violence often leads to transgender inmates being placed in isolation “for their own protection.”
Senate Bill 132
Senate Bill 132 would help address the problem.
The bill would allow incarcerated transgender people to be housed in facility where they feel safest, which can include housing consistent with their gender identity, absent specific security or management concerns.
SB 132 has passed the state legislature in August and sits on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk awaiting his signature. Newsom has until September 30 to sign or veto the bill.
SB 132 is authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by TransLatin@ Coalition, TGI Justice Project, Equality California, ACLU of California, Lambda Legal, Medina Orthwein LLP, and Transgender Law Center.
“This legislation represents a crucial measure toward reducing the violence and harassment faced by trans people incarcerated in the state of California,” said Nora Huppert, an attorney at Lambda Legal. “Hopefully SB 132 is but the first step toward eliminating the conditions that expose trans people to violence and which are often created or ignored by the state.”
Transgender inmates victimized
Researchers at UC Irvine reported that transgender inmates are 13 times more likely to be raped than the general population.
Also, a Justice Department survey revealed that 40 percent of transgender inmates said they were sexual abused or assualted in the last year by another inmate or prison staff.
SB 132 would require several things:
- During the initial intake process, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will record the inmate’s self-reported gender identity, gender pronouns, and honorifics.
- House a transgender inmate at a correctional facility designated for men or women based on the individual’s preference, whether by the person’s gender identity, or, alternatively, by their sex assigned at birth if the incarcerated person believes such housing would be safer. The only exception is if a specific security or management concern exists at the requested facility.
- All staff, contractors, and volunteers of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must use the gender pronoun and honorific that the inmate has specified in all verbal and written communications.