California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a new law on Saturday allowing transgender inmates to be placed in prisons based on their gender identity.
Previously, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation housed men and women in separate correctional facilities, and transgender inmates were housed based on their biological sex. The new California law will allow transgender inmates to be housed based on their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth.
The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act notes that officers must privately ask inmates during the intake process on how they identify as. Transgender, nonbinary, or intersex inmates can request to be placed in a facility that houses either men or women based on how they identify as.
The law says the CDCR cannot deny requests for the preferred prison based solely on the inmates' anatomy, sexual orientation, or "a factor present" among other inmates at the facility, the law states.
However, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation can deny the request of preferred prison if there is "management or security concerns." If a request is denied, the state must give the inmate a written statement explaining the decision and give the inmate a "meaningful opportunity" to object, The Hill reported. If at any time the inmates raise concerns about their health or safety, the state must reassess their housing, according to the law.
The law also requires officers to do body search on inmates based on the search policy of their chosen gender identity. And the law also requires officers to address transgender inmates based on the pronouns of their choice.
Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who authored the bill, said that SB 132 would protect "particularly trans women who are subject to high levels of assault and harassment in men's facilities."
"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," Wiener said. "Overwhelmingly the people who are being victimized are trans people."
Opponents of the law, such as Chris Bish, Republican candidate for California's 6th congressional district, claim that the law puts biological female inmates at risk, especially for sexual assault.
Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York City, and Rhode Island have similar laws where inmates are housed based on gender identity and not biological sex.