California Governor Gavin Newsom has approved legislation that will give prisoners the ability to decide where they will be incarcerated based on whether they ‘identify’ as male or female.
The newly-ratified bill will instruct the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to house inmates based on their own gender identity, rather than their sex assigned at birth.
Prison officials will be required to ask inmates during initial processing if they identify as transgender, nonbinary or intersex. Prisoners can then request to be housed in a male or female facility based on their ‘identity’. The CDCR cannot turn down these requests solely because of an inmate’s anatomy. However, the new guidelines are only applicable if the state does not have “management or security concerns” with the prisoner in question. The state must provide a written explanation in instances where placement requests are denied, and must also allow the prisoner in question to appeal the decision.
In a statement, Newsom said that the new law and several other bills related to LGBTQ+ issues were part of California’s “march toward equality” and would help “uphold the dignity” of all state residents.
Last year, Massachusetts prison officials transferred a prisoner from a men’s prison to a women’s prison after the state adopted a law aimed at protecting transgender inmates’ rights. The case was described as the first instance in the United States where an inmate was placed in a facility based on his or her own gender identity.
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