SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today, the Senate passed Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) legislation requiring that incarcerated transgender people in the custody of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) be classified and housed with respect and dignity on a bipartisan 29-6 vote. It will now head to the Assembly for committee hearings in the coming weeks. When transgender people are housed according to their birth-assigned gender, which is currently the typical practice, many are at heightened risk of violence, including sexual violence. This risk of violence often leads to transgender people being placed in isolation “for their own protection,” resulting in loss of access to services.
The solution is to house transgender incarcerated people with respect and dignity, either according to their gender identity or according to their perception of their own health and safety needs. To that end, SB 132:
“Incarcerated transgender people deserve to be housed in facilities consistent with their gender identity,” said Senator Wiener. “When we house trans people based on their birth-assigned gender, we place them at high risk of sexual assault and violence. SB 132 will help ensure transgender individuals are treated with dignity and have their gender identity respected.”
SB 132 is sponsored by Equality California, TransLatin@ Coalition, TGI Justice Project, Transgender Law Center, ACLU of California and Lambda Legal.
“California is now one step closer to ensuring every person — regardless of their gender identity — is treated with human dignity and respect,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “We’re deeply grateful to Senator Wiener for his leadership and to every senator who supported this critical bill, which will help eliminate harassment and abuse in our prisons, while reducing isolation and recidivism.”
Currently, CDCR houses people based on their assigned sex at birth unless an individual has undergone gender-affirming surgery or has received a medical evaluation and been referred to a classification committee. This means that many transgender people are housed in facilities that do not correspond to their gender identity, even when being housed according to their gender identity would better protect their health and safety. Incarcerated transgender people don’t always undergo gender-affirming surgery but should still be housed according to their gender identity if that would best protect their health and safety. Transgender people, particularly transgender women, are at much greater risk for sexual victimization and other forms of assault or harassment in correctional facilities. This often leads to them being removed from the general population and placed in limited housing access like solitary confinement, which provides limited or no access to services and programming and puts people at risk of serious psychological harm.
“SB 132 in many ways is a life saver for many Trans, Gender Nonconforming and Intersex (TGI) people,” said Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of Translatin@ Coalition. “This bill will set precedence not only in our beautiful state but it will also provide the ability for other states to follow suit and validate the lives of TGI people. In some ways, this bill will provide a bit of dignity to incarcerated TGI people.”
Currently, people in CDCR’s custody can petition a court to obtain a gender or name change, and a facility must use this new name in all documentation. However, transgender individuals do not have the opportunity to affirm their own gender identity and identifying information within correctional facilities, and facilities are not required to address people by their correct gender identity. SB 132 will require all prisons under the jurisdiction of CDCR to ask each person to specify their gender identity, preferred first name, gender pronoun and honorific. SB 132 also requires that facility staff use the correct gender pronouns and honorifics when communicating with transgender incarcerated people.
“By requiring CDCR to respect the gender identity of every incarcerated individual, this bill will both improve safety and foster dignity for transgender people in California’s prisons,” said Amanda Goad, Audrey Irmas Director of the LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project, ACLU of Southern California.
“We applaud the Senate for voting to advance SB 132 today,” said Sasha Buchert, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal. “As the Supreme Court recognized, transgender people are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. Almost 40 percent of incarcerated transgender people experience sexual assault. SB 132 will help reduce this high rate of violence by ensuring that incarcerated transgender people are housed based on their gender identity, unless the incarcerated person’s evaluation of their own safety is that another housing placement is safest. We thank Senator Wiener for his leadership on the bill, and we urge the Assembly to move this important and life-saving legislation forward.”
“Medina Orthwein LLP is proud to sponsor this long overdue legislation because it prioritizes incarcerated transgender people’s identity, health, and safety,” said Jennifer Orthwein, Partner at Medina Orthwein LLP. “We thank Senator Wiener and the Senate for advancing SB 132 and are hopeful these measures will reduce the gender-based violence and harm prisons perpetuate on transgender and gender variant people.”
Full text of SB 132 can be found here.
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