Senate Passes Senator Wiener’s Legislation to Ensure Incarcerated Transgender People Are Housed According to their Gender Identity

SB 132 protects transgender people from the violence that frequently arises from being housed in prison according to their birth-assigned gender instead of their actual gender identity
May 23, 2019

Sacramento–  Today, the Senate passed Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) legislation requiring that incarcerated transgender individuals in the custody of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) be classified and housed based on their gender identity - absent specific security concerns - on a 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, they 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 individuals according to their gender identity. To that end, SB 132:

-Requires that during the initial intake process, CDCR record the individual’s self-reported gender identity, preferred first name, preferred pronouns, and honorifics.

-Requires CDCR to house people according to their gender identity, unless a specifically articulated security concern counsels otherwise, or the individual believes it would be safer to be housed according to their birth gender.

-Requires all staff and contractors of CDCR to consistently use the gender pronoun, honorific, and preferred name the individual has specified in all verbal and written communications with and regarding that individual.  

“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.”

Currently, CDCR houses individuals 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 leaves many transgender individuals housed in facilities that do not correspond to their gender identity. Incarcerated transgender individuals don’t always undergo gender-affirming surgery, and should still be housed according to their gender identity regardless of that fact. Transgender individuals, particularly transgender women, are at much greater risk for sexual victimization and other forms of assault or harassment in correctional facilities, especially when housed in facilities not consistent with their gender identities. 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 like rehabilitative programming, educational programing, religious programming, and work opportunities.  Requiring individuals to be housed according to their gender identity will help ensure that transgender individuals are safer and receive greater access to programming, which has been proven to reduce recidivism and further rehabilitation efforts.

People in CDCR’s custody can currently 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 them by their correct gender identity.  SB 132 will require during the initial intake process at all prisons under the jurisdiction of CDCR, individuals be given the opportunity to specify their gender identity, preferred first name, gender pronoun, and honorific during the intake process. SB 132 also requires that all of these be used by facility staff. 

SB 132 is sponsored by TransLatin@, EQCA, ACLU, and Lambda Legal and has the support of the Transgender Law Center.

Quotes:

“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.”

"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."

"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."

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.”

Full text of SB 132 can be found here.

 

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