The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was recently sued by a woman’s rights advocacy group that disagrees with a new law known as the Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation recently came under fire in a lawsuit filed by the Women’s Liberation Front, a feminist advocacy organization. The suit argues the agency placed “female prisoners at risk by housing biological males in women’s prisons.” The suit further claims the agency “is violating the First, Eighth and 14th amendments with a new law known as the Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act, or SB 132.” Specifically, the suit says “the law cannot be applied in any manner that avoids violating the federal and state constitutional rights of the plaintiffs.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California and names the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Corrections Secretary Kathleen Allison, and wardens Michael Pallares and Mona Houston as defendants.
One of the plaintiffs is Krystal Gonzalez. She claims she was “sexually assaulted by a biological male who was transferred to Central California Women’s Facility under the law.” When she filed a complaint and asked to be housed away from biological males, the prison responded by calling “her alleged attacker a transgender woman with a penis.” The suit states:
“Krystal does not believe that women have penises and the psychological distress caused by her assault is exacerbated by the prison’s refusal to acknowledge the sex of her perpetrator.”
Gonzalez is joined by several other plaintiffs, including Woman II Woman, a nonprofit advocacy group that “helps incarcerated women affected by the new law.” Amie Ichikawa, the founder of Woman II Woman said, “California is home to the largest women’s prison in the world, where being degraded and humiliated is now part of the daily routine.” She added:
“This anti-woman law was overwhelmingly accepted by the California State Assembly members, embraced by our representatives, and lauded by our senators…Sadly, this even includes the California Women’s Caucus. We do not understand how so many people, especially women, had the audacity to turn a blind eye to this abuse.”
As a result of the new law, the plaintiffs have and continue to experience “fear, anxiety, depression, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder” from housing, dining, showering, and recreating with biological men,” according to the suit. It further states:
“Some incarcerated women sharing a cell with a man, along with other women, now make sleep schedules among the women so that a woman is on watch to try to prevent rape by the male cellmate.”
The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act was signed into law in September 2020 by Governor Gavin Newsom. As part of the law, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is required to “house transgender, gender-nonconforming, and intersex (TGI) individuals in a manner that matches their gender identity while supporting health and safety.”
Additionally, the law requires the “department to ask all individuals entering its custody to state their personal pronouns, their gender identity and whether they identify as transgender, nonbinary or intersex.” According to the law, the prison system is also required to house individuals “in a correctional facility designated for men or women based on the individual’s preference.”
The lawsuit has the support of many organizations, including Concerned Women for America, Keep Prisons Single Sex, the U.S. chapter of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign, and the California Family Council, no name a few.