By Terry Thornton, Deputy Press Secretary
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 132, The Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act, legislation that will allow incarcerated transgender, non-binary and intersex people to be housed and searched in a manner consistent with their gender identity. The new law will become effective Jan. 1, 2021.
Authored by Senator Scott Wiener, SB 132 will support the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s efforts to provide a safe, humane, respectful and rehabilitative environment for the incarcerated transgender, non-binary and intersex community.
“No one deserves to be treated disrespectfully because of their gender identity or expression. And it is our sworn duty to protect people from sexual assault and violence,” CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said. “Senate Bill 132 will bolster our ongoing efforts to address the inequalities and complex needs the incarcerated transgender, non-binary and intersex community faces and codify our policies for the screening, treatment, and housing of this population as required by the Prison Rape Elimination Act,” Diaz added.
Since last year, CDCR executives and leadership worked closely with Senator Wiener and sponsors of SB 132 in order to provide them technical assistance on the bill’s language and invited them to participate in surveys and discussions with the individuals who would be impacted by the bill. CDCR also held several meetings with incarcerated members of the transgender, non-binary and intersex community, as well as members of the incarcerated cisgender community, and conducted a survey last fall to listen and learn what is important to them and to hear directly from the people the law would impact.
CDCR has already proactively implemented several policies, practices and procedures for the screening, housing, searching and treatment of incarcerated transgender, intersex, non-binary and gender non-conforming people. This includes allowing access to clothing and personal care items consistent with their gender identity and setting clear expectations that staff address them consistent with their gender identity, to include the use of correct pronouns and honorifics.
“We have found that staff’s respect of a person’s gender identity and expression is essential for this population to thrive,” Secretary Diaz said.
CDCR authorizes incarcerated transgender, non-binary and intersex people access to clothing and personal care items that correspond with their gender identity. CDCR also developed and implemented specialized training to ensure staff members are aware of laws and departmental policies and to give them the knowledge and tools they need when interacting with the incarcerated transgender community.
In early 2019, CDCR proactively established a multi-disciplinary workgroup of internal and external stakeholders to address the housing and searching of the incarcerated transgender community, an effort commended earlier this year by the Office of the Inspector General in a special report. However, the scope of the Transgender Housing and Search Workgroup quickly expanded to include many areas of concern regarding this community and the group will work to create the processes for the department’s implementation of SB 132.
Provisions of SB 132
- SB 132 requires CDCR to ask each person during initial intake and in a private setting to specify their gender identity (male, female, non-binary); whether they identify as transgender, non-binary or intersex; and their gender pronoun and honorific. People cannot be disciplined for refusing to respond or for not disclosing complete information and they can at any time update their information regarding their gender identity.
- SB 132 prohibits staff, contractors and volunteers from failing to consistently use a person’s gender pronouns and honorifics in verbal and written communications.
- All incarcerated people who are transgender, non-binary or intersex are to be searched in a manner consistent with their gender identity or according to the gender designation of the facility where they are housed, based on the person’s search preference. If the incarcerated individual’s preference or gender identity cannot be determined, the search is to be conducted according to the gender designation of the facility where they are housed.
- SB 132 requires CDCR to house a person who identifies as transgender, non-binary or intersex in a correctional facility – including residential reentry facilities – designated for men or women based on their preference.
- Serious consideration is to be given to their health and safety perceptions for bed assignments, placement or programs. This includes granting single-cell status, housing them with another incarcerated person of their choice, or removing people who pose a safety threat. If the individual is not granted an alternative based on their health and safety perceptions, CDCR is to document the reasons for that denial and share them with the individual.
- If CDCR has management or security concerns with an incarcerated person’s search preference or preferred housing placement, the Secretary or their designee is to certify in writing a specific and articulable basis why CDCR is unable to accommodate that search or housing preference. SB 132 does place some limitations on the reason that CDCR can deny a search preference or housing placement. The incarcerated person is to receive a copy of the written statement and be provided a meaningful opportunity to object.
- If an incarcerated individual raises concerns for their health or safety at any time, their housing and placement is to be reassessed.