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California law allows transgender inmates in women's prisons. Now, female inmates are suing

Andrew Sheeler, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A woman's rights group is suing the state to overturn a new law that requires prisons to place transgender and gender nonbinary inmates in facilities that correspond to their gender identities, alleging the practice puts incarcerated people in danger.

The Women's Liberation Front filed a lawsuit last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on behalf of several incarcerated women as well as a group, Woman II Woman, that advocates on behalf of incarcerated women.

Two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, both incarcerated women, allege they were sexually assaulted by inmates who identify as transgender or gender nonbinary.

The lawsuit said that one of the alleged assaults occurred after the law went into effect, while the other alleged assault does not specify when it occurred.

Several of the plaintiffs report being victims of domestic violence in the past. Several of the plaintiffs also cite their religious beliefs, which they argue are impaired by being placed in shared custody with transgender women.

Amie Ichikawa of the group Woman II Woman said she was shocked when she first read the bill that later became law, adding that she wasn't alone.

 

"We've gotten so many calls, letters, different messages of women feeling forgotten, completely excluded," Ichikawa said.

Ichikawa said that she supports transgender women being safe behind bars, but not in a way that she said allows sexual predators to slip in under the umbrella of transgender identity.

"We're about making sure everybody is being safe here," Ichikawa said.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton said on Tuesday that the department has not yet been served with the lawsuit, and that the department does not comment on pending litigation.

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