Men in women's prisons: letters from Californian inmates

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We have already told you (see here) of the Nearly 300 California inmates are asking to be transferred to women's prisons under the new Senate bill, SB132, which allows anyone who "identifies" as a woman - regardless of having male genitalia - to serve their sentence among women. The application of the new law is shaking up the prison system of the American state and terrorizing the detained, forced to share narrow spaces with self-styled "women", sometimes sex offenders that threaten their safety. The rights of men, transgender or not, always come before those of women, and this is a law that never changes. Here they are letters, written on notebook paper, from two prisoners who ask not to have to suffer this further and unjust punishment. Here you are “gender identity” in action.

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Dear President Durbin and Senator Grassley, my name is Amie Ichicawa.

I'm there founder of the non-profit organization Woman II Woman and I represent 1300 inmates and ex-offenders in California. I write to highlight that if it will pass the Equality Act will endanger not only incarcerated women, but all women nationwide. I know this because I've been to prison and what's happening in California prisons as a result of SB132, the Senate bill “The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act” which is the prison-level version of the Equality Act. 

What women in state prisons are already experiencing is being extended nationwide. Loopholes to get around the law are hidden behind misleading language, but they are out in the open for anyone trying to manipulate it in order to have direct access to possible victims.

At first glance these appear to be important and progressive measures for the prison system. Who wants to deny someone respect and equality? The same people who wrote these laws, without considering in the slightest one of the most forgotten and easily expendable parts of American society – women prisoners. To incarcerated transgender and gender non-conforming people pronouns and titles are asked upon entry. When I was booked into prison I was told that I was simply X37739. Now them they can choose where to stay: “Provide single cells, house the person with someone else of their choice, or move someone who poses a threat from places where they could access the person who has expressed concerns about their safety”. 

In this way predators within the prison system have direct access to the person who has expressed safety concerns, the woman, whose thousands of concerns are ignored. Everyone in prison comes face to face with danger every day. This is not equality. The transfer requests are piling up, and none of them involve transgender men who want to go to a men's prison. The requests cannot be refused in order not to discriminate against: 1. the anatomy of the detained person, including - but not limited to - his genitals or other physical characteristics 2. the sexual orientation of the detained person.
This means that a man who potentially manipulates the system by presenting himself as non-binary or gender non-conforming has every right to serve his sentence in a women's prison. As you read this there is a violent, serial rapist in a California prison who has completely stopped hormone therapy and is living openly as a man in a women's facility. Even a violent rapist deserves more rights and more consideration for his safety than the prison community. 

Most women prisoners suffer from PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder a long history of physical, sexual and mental abuse as well as having had relationships that have damaged them. These women are not only serving the sentences inflicted on them, but also the added penalty of constantly living in fear that one of your new cellmates might be one of those people who abuses the new law.

The women's prison has a completely different layout from the men's prison. In the women's wing, women are housed in units with four corridors. Each corridor has 8 rooms. Each room has 4 bunk beds, a toilet, two sinks and a shower. Toilets and showers do not have doors. There are dividers that cover only the central part of the body, leaving the bottom and top uncovered. You take a shower and obviously go to the bathroom in your cell. There is no way to avoid exposing yourself to your cellmates whether you intend to or not. There are two-person cells with showers at the end of each corridor. The toilets are at the head of the bed. There is no separation between bed and toilet. Add to these already harsh conditions other daily activities such as Taking a shower in the presence of someone with different genitalia is a huge omission by lawmakers for women's safety and mental health.

Prisons have reached maximum capacity. There are records showing that in 2020, California's women's prison was operating at 131.7% capacity. This is an additional form of punishment, aabsolute and intentional indifference towards women. My team receives new information every day from women who have completely lost faith in the system, which They live in fear and wonder how they will be able to defend themselves when things get bad. They feel betrayed because they were not involved in the discussions and polls on SB132. Women are excluded from the protection promised by Department of Corrections with the verbose formulas used by SB132 which mirrors the Equality Act. 

What is happening in California's women's prisons is the erasure of women's rights. It starts from the lowest level of society by removing the rights of women who have been forgotten. This is what will happen in the entire state when the law passes as is. 

Thank you for your concern and the opportunity to share the concerns of my community and give a voice to those who have none. Please read the Attached letters A and B from detained women explaining what is happening because of the law.
Respectfully, Amie Ichicawa Founder of Woman II Woman

LETTER TO

My name is Danielle F., I am an inmate in the CIW (California Institution for Women). I do not agree with Senate Bill 132 written by Senator Scott Weiner and irresponsibly signed by Governor Newson. I don't share it. I'm afraid of this thing. I am a victim of domestic violence and rape. What will happen if one of these sex offenders who have penises rapes us? I ask that revisions be made to SB132 that address these serious safety concerns. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, Danielle F, 1822

LETTER B
To whom it may concern
My name is Heather Knauff, WF 7697. I am an inmate in the CWI. I disagree with Senate Bill 132 written by Senator Scott Weiner and irresponsibly signed by Governor Newson which says the law will support the CDCR community of transgender, non-binary and intersex inmates. This will allow sex offenders to exploit women who are physically disadvantaged compared to men. We share very small spaces, that is, with limited privacy and protection. Allowing this is outrageous and unethical. There are already men who have become women who have turned back into men to exploit this weak system which leaves the population of already disadvantaged women to suffer even more at the hands of sex offenders.

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