The legislation declares that imprisoned transgender individuals are exposed to sexual abuse, discrimination, and harassment and therefore need a safe environment in which they are able to “express their gender or to take medical, social or legal transition steps.” A California study discovered that transgender women have a 13-times higher rate of sexual assault than men in the same jail.
“Gender transition is a deeply personal experience that may involve some combination of social transition, legal transition, medical transition, or none of these,” declares the law, recognized as the Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act.
Between Jan. 1 and April 9, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has got 261 gender-based housing requests; 255 are from transgender women and nonbinary imprisoned people who are requesting to be housed in a female institution, and six are from transgender men and nonbinary detained people who are asking to be housed in a male institution.
The agency accepted 21 requests; seven were transferred to Central California Women’s Facility, and two changed their minds. The waiting applications are still under review.
Applications are not automatically granted though rather must go through a review committee that includes the warden, medical and mental health staff, and custody officers, explained CDCR deputy press secretary Terry Thornton.
California holds 35 prisons, including three for women.
“CDCR’s classification process includes a thorough review of the incarcerated person’s history prior to and during incarceration, their crime, arrest and criminal history, trial and sentencing documentation, medical and mental health needs, custody level, time to serve, safety concerns and other factors including security and program needs,” Thornton stated.
"Senate Bill 132 ... supports CDCR's endeavors to improve safety, help prevent sexual abuse and create a more respectful environment for the incarcerated transgender, non-binary and intersex community," Thornton said.
An inmate’s rap sheet and disciplinary record in jail are part of the process, she continued.
The state will pay for surgery and any medical treatment for individuals who want to transition to another sex. This is compatible with the military and Veteran Affairs administration, which was directed by President Joe Biden to start funding medical procedures.
California grew the first state to finance such surgeries after a 2017 court settlement.
“The Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution requires that prisons provide medically necessary treatment for prisoners’ medical needs based on medical considerations,” Thornton said. “This can include gender-affirming surgery.”