May 11, 2009
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LGBT Prisoner Safety Act Passes Assembly with Bipartisan Support
Bill Sponsored by EQCA and Introduced by Assemblymember Ammiano Now Moves to Senate
Sacramento -- The California State Assembly passed the LGBT Prisoner Safety Act, AB 382, today by an overwhelming margin of 64-9. The bill garnered significant bipartisan support. Sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D -- San Francisco), the bill is designed to prevent violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the state prison system. The bill received more Republican votes than any other piece of legislation sponsored by EQCA.
"The California Assembly sent a powerful message today that all Californians deserve protection from violence," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "This vital bill seeks to end abuse and assault against LGBT prisoners, ensuring they receive equal and fair protection under the law."
According to a recent study from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 67 percent of LGBT inmates report being sexually assaulted by another inmate, a rate 15 times higher than the overall prison population.
By amending the Sexual Abuse in Detention Elimination Act (SADEA) of 2005 to include sexual orientation and gender identity on the list of factors for consideration when classifying and housing prisoners, the legislation promotes safety for and prevents assault against LGBT people in the prison system. The list of factors currently includes age, gender, type of offense, and prior time served.
"All people deserve basic protections -- including those serving time in our state prisons," Assemblymember Ammiano said upon introducing the bill. "No prisoner should fear for his or her life or be the target of abuse because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity."
The bill developed following a Senate Public Safety Committee meeting held in San Francisco this past December and chaired by Senator and former Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles). The meeting, which was sponsored by EQCA along with Just Detention International, the Transgender Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Gender-Variant and Intersex Justice Project, exposed the dire issues facing LGBT people in California prisons in order to produce concrete solutions. The LGBT Prisoner Safety Act is an important step toward ensuring the safety of this highly vulnerable population. Last month, the bill passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee unanimously by a 7-0 vote.
Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender-rights advocacy organization in California. In the past decade, EQCA has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil-rights protections in the nation. EQCA has passed over 50 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org