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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

"However, the department is committed to providing a safe, humane, rehabilitative and secure environment for all people in its custody. Federal and state laws impose legal obligations related to the treatment of people in custody with specific provisions for gender non-conforming people," Thornton said.

According to the department, 291 people housed at male correctional institutions in the state have requested to be transferred to a female correctional institution.

Of those, 41 transfer requests have been approved, six have been denied, 10 have been withdrawn and the rest remain under review by the department.

In addition, seven incarcerated people at female institutions have requested transfer to a male institution. All of those transfer requests remain under review.

The author of the law, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, characterized the lawsuit and its advocates as transphobic in their portrayal of transgender inmates as potential threats. The California Family Council, a conservative group that lobbied against the law, also promoted the lawsuit this week.


"To broad brush the trans community and claim that basically all trans women are sexual predators is false, it's completely slanderous, but it's out of the right wing playbook in terms of attacking trans people," Wiener said.

Transgender inmates face well-documented dangers in prisons and jails.

A 2015 National Inmate Survey, administered by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found that more than a third of transgender inmates in prisons and jails have experienced sexual assaults by facility staff or other inmates over a one-year period, according to a report from CBS News.

The federal Office for Victims of Crime reports that 15% of transgender individuals report being sexually assaulted while in custody, with that number more than doubling, to 32%, for African-American transgender people.

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