Men in women's prisons: letters from Californian women prisoners

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We have already told you (see here) of the Nearly 300 Californian 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 implementation of the new rule is disrupting the US state prison system and terrorizing the prisoners, forced to share cramped 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 the letters, written on notebook sheets, from two female prisoners who ask not to have to suffer this additional and unjust punishment. Here is gender identity' in action.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

They are the founder of the non-profit organisation Woman II Woman and representing 1,300 female prisoners and ex-prisoners in California. I write to point out that if it passes the Equality Act will endanger not only women prisoners, but all women nationwide. I know this because I have been in prison and what is happening in California prisons as a result of SB132, the Senate bill "The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act". which is the prison version of the Equality Act. 

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

At first sight, these seem to be important and progressive measures for the prison system.. Who wants to deny anyone respect and equality? The same people who wrote these laws, without the slightest consideration of one of the most forgotten and easily sacrificed parts of American society - women prisoners. Incarcerated transgender and gender non-conforming persons pronouns and titles are asked at the entrance. When I was registered in prison I was told that I was simply X37739. Now they can choose where to stay: "Granting single cells, housing the person with another of his or her choice, or moving the person posing a threat from places where he or she could have access to the person who has expressed concerns for his or her safety". 

In this way predators within the prison system have direct access to those whose concerns are ignored. All in prison come face to face with danger every day. This is not equality. Transfer requests are piling up and none of them concern transgender men who want to go to a male prison.. The requests may not be refused in order not to discriminate against: 1. the anatomy of the detained person, including -but not limited to- their 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 a non-binary or gender non-conforming person has every right to serve his sentence in a women's prison. As you are reading 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 inmate community. 

The majority of women prisoners suffer from PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, have a long history of physical, sexual and mental abuse as well as having had relationships that damaged them. These women are not only serving their sentences, but also the added pain of constantly living in fear that one of the new cellmates might be one of those people abusing 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 washbasins and a shower. Toilets and showers have no doors. There are partitions that only cover the middle part of the body, leaving the top and bottom uncovered. One takes a shower and obviously goes to the bathroom in the cell. There is no way to avoid exposing yourself to your fellow inmates whether you intend to or not. There are two-person cells with showers at the end of each corridor. 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 on the part of legislators for the safety and mental health of women.

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

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

Thank you for your attention and the opportunity to share the concerns of my community and to give a voice to those who do not have one. Please read the attached letters A and B from women prisoners explaining what is happening because of the law.
Respectfully, Amie Ichicawa Founder of Woman II Woman

Uomini nelle carceri femminili: le lettere delle detenute californiane

LETTER A

My name is Danielle F., I am an inmate of 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 do not agree with it. I am afraid of this. I am a victim of domestic violence and rape. What will happen if one of these sex offenders who have a penis rapes us? I request that revisions be made to SB132 that address these serious safety concerns. Thank you for your time.

Cordially, Danielle F, 1822

Uomini nelle carceri femminili: le lettere delle detenute californiane

LETTER B
To whom it may concern
My name is Heather Knauff, WF 7697. I am an inmate of the CWI. I disagree with Senate Bill 132 written by Senator Scott Weiner and irresponsibly signed by Governor Newson that says the bill 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 restricted spaces, i.e. with limited privacy and protection. To allow this is outrageous and unethical. There are already men who have become women who have turned back into men to exploit this weak system leaving the already disadvantaged population of women to suffer even more from sex offenders.


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