SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Assembly passed Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) bill requiring the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to house transgender, gender-nonconforming and intersex people according to their own sense of where they will be safest on Sunday, and the Senate concurred in the Assembly’s amendments Monday morning. The bill now heads to Governor Newsom for his signature. Known as the Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act, SB 132 is co-sponsored by Transgender Law Center, TransLatin@ Coalition, TGI Justice Project, ACLU of California, Equality California, Lambda Legal, and Medina Orthwein LLP. The California Senate initially passed the bill in May 2019 with a bipartisan vote of 29-8. The co-sponsors then converted it to a two-year bill so that the co-sponsors and Senator Wiener could meaningfully integrate feedback collected from a survey of the ~1,200 trans, gender-nonconforming and intersex people currently in CDCR custody.
SB 132 would require that incarcerated transgender people in CDCR custody be classified and housed based on their sense of health and safety, which may or may not correspond with their gender identity — as opposed to defaulting to anatomy or dictating placement based on sex assigned at birth. Furthermore, the bill:
Requires that during the initial intake process, CDCR record the individual’s self-reported gender identity, gender pronouns, and honorifics.
Requires, unless a specific security or management concern warranting denial can be articulated, that CDCR house a transgender person 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.
Requires all staff, contractors, and volunteers of CDCR to consistently use the gender pronoun and honorific that an individual has specified in all verbal and written communications with and regarding that individual.
“Transgender people in prison — particularly trans women — are at severe risk of assault and sexual victimization because they’re automatically housed by their birth-assigned sex,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “I’m authoring this legislation to ensure they can be housed where they’re safest. Transgender people should not be forced into isolation because they aren’t protected where they are forced to live. They should be able live by their gender, and SB 132 will allow for that outcome.”
“Everyone deserves basic human respect, agency and dignity,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “SB 132 is a critical first step toward ending the violence and harassment to which transgender, gender-nonconforming and intersex people are subjected while incarcerated. We are so grateful to Senator Wiener for his deep personal commitment to fighting for justice for the trans community and to our coalition partners for their leadership and advocacy. SB 132 will save lives.”
“While transgender, gender-variant, and intersex (TGI) people will never be safe in prisons, SB 132 will be a useful tool for TGI people housed in California prisons to access safer housing and to advocate that their correct pronouns and honorifics be used,” said Transgender, Gender-Variant, & Intersex Justice Project Legal Director Alex Binsfeld.
“This bill is a necessary and long overdue harm reduction measure that will allow our trans family to seek safer situations while incarcerated,” said Shawn Meerkamper, senior staff attorney at Transgender Law Center. “As our movements work toward defunding the police and abolishing prisons, California is showing that our governments can and must also take immediate intermediary steps to increase agency and prevent some of the worst violence our incarcerated neighbors suffer.”
“SB 132 is legislation that will give the agency to Trans and Gender-Nonconforming people who are incarcerated to choose a place to complete their sentences where they will be safer,” said The TransLatin@ Coalition President and CEO Bamby Salcedo. “This legislation is overdue and we are grateful that we got to work with a coalition of great organizations and amazing individuals who put their minds and their might to push to make sure this historic legislation is set in place.”
“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, Renberg Fellow and 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.”
“For far too long transgender, nonbinary and intersex people have been stripped of their dignity, their sanity, and, for some, their lives behind bars,” said Jen Orthwein, Founding Partner at Medina Orthwein LLP. “It was our goal with SB 132 to ensure transgender, nonbinary and intersex people are treated with dignity and respect, and to empower them with the tools they need to seek safety and survive prison with some semblance of mental and bodily integrity intact.”
Governor Newsom has until September 30 to consider SB 132. The legislation would become effective on January 1, 2021 if signed.
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org