SB-132, which was introduced by state Senator Scott Wiener, stipulates that inmates at male prisons who claim to have a “female gender identity” will be transferred to a women’s prison, if that move is consistent with the inmate’s “perception of health and safety.”
In evaluating a person’s request to be moved, the bill forbids prison officials from considering factors such as anatomy, as well as the presence of gender dysphoria or any other physical or mental health diagnoses. Instead, the decision will be based solely on the individual’s perceived “gender identity.”
In introducing the bill, Wiener cited statistics that show transgenders in male prisons are at a higher risk of sexual assault than other inmates.
“We know that almost 40 percent of transgender individuals who are incarcerated report experiencing sexual victimization, compared to just 4 percent of the overall population,” Wiener said at a Committee hearing on the bill.
“In California, a study of the state’s prisons designated for men found that the rate of sexual assault for transgender women in these prisons was 13 times higher than for men in the same prison,” he said.
Concerns have been raised, however, that in trying to protect transgenders from sexual abuse, the bill is setting up female inmates for just that.
“It’s simply logical that females deserve privacy and protection, and that men are generally stronger than they are, and they are vulnerable if you put them in the same showers and the same living quarters,” Greg Burt, the director of the California Family Council, told The Epoch Times.
“I don’t think we should be trusting inmates who are in prison because of bad behavior to behave themselves when they get into a women’s prison.”
Burt is joined in his opposition to the bill by Abigail Lunetta of the Women’s Liberation Front, a feminist organization.
“This bill is written with, I think, good intent in the hope of protecting vulnerable gender-nonconforming prisoners,” Lunetta told The Epoch Times.
“But it allows convicted rapists and males who were imprisoned specifically for sexually assaulting and even killing women, to enter women’s prisons.
“So what it completely ignores here is a sexual dynamic that is very real that transcends gender identity, and it’s pretty evident that it transcends gender identity because there are already a good number of trans male prisoners, and by male I mean biologically male, who identify as women, but they are in prison for crimes against women.”
Both Burt and Lunetta pointed to the United Kingdom, where similar legislation was passed but had to be repealed because of sexual abuse.
In the U.K., this resulted in an increase of sexual assault almost immediately, and they had to roll back the bill,” Burt said.
Lunetta pointed to the case of Cynthia Black, a convicted child murderer and rapist in the U.K. who was allowed in a women’s prison after claiming to identify as a female. Black then committed a string of sexual assaults before being removed.
In defending SB-132, supporters point to a passage in the bill that states that if there are “significant security or management concerns,” prison officials may refuse a prisoner’s request to be transferred.
This does not satisfy Burt, however.
“We already know that California courts have mandated dangerous transgenders into women’s prisons,” Burt said.
He pointed to the case of Richard Masbruch, who was arrested in 1991 for raping a woman and torturing her and her mother. In prison, Masbruch severed his genitalia and took feminizing hormones. Consequently, he was moved to a women’s prison where multiple inmates have accused him of sexual abuse.
Burt said he believes “transgender” prisoners should be protected, but SB-132 is not the way to do it.
“It’s appalling that we are allowing people to be sexually assaulted in prison, and we must do everything we can to prevent people from being raped or assaulted, but this is not the solution,” he said.
“I mean any of those men who are raping transgender folks in the male prisons can simply identify as female and come on over to the women’s prison.”