Trans inmates in California prisons will now be house according to their gender identity under a new law signed by governor Gavin Newsom Saturday (September 26).
Placing trans inmates in facilities which do not match their gender identity has long been criticised as dehumanising and dangerous. Many trans prisoners have spoken about their experiences of abuse by guards and inmates, long stretches in solitary confinement and facilities denying them vital medical care.
According to NBC News, the new law states that in California inmates must be privately asked during the intake process how they identify, and can request to be housed in either a men’s and women’s facility.
Requests cannot be denied based on anatomy, sexual orientation or any “factor present” among other inmates, however the state is able to deny requests if there are “management or security concerns”.
In this case, the inmate must be given a statement explaining why their request was denied and a “meaningful opportunity” to object to the decision. If at any point during their incarceration there are concerns about their health or safety, then the facility the inmate is housed in can be reassessed.
Inmates must also be searched according to the search policy for their gender, and officers must always refer to inmates with the correct pronouns.
Senator Scott Wiener authored the bill, and said in a statement that he does not expect housing requests by trans inmates to be denied often.
Wiener said: “It’s just a false narrative about transgender people and about transgender women in particular that they’re somehow not really women and are just trying to scam their way into women’s bathrooms or facilities in order to do bad things.
“Overwhelmingly the people who are being victimized are trans people.”
At a news conference, Michelle Calvin, a trans woman who has been incarcerated for 15 years, said: “It means a lot to me and my sisters… I’ve been through the abuse, I’ve been through the disrespect of staff not addressing me for who I am because I am a woman.”