Close Prisons, Not Change Them

Senate Bill 132, The Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act, legislation that allows incarcerated transgender, non-binary and intersex people to request to be housed and searched consistent with their gender identity became effective Jan. 1, 2021. SB 132 supports the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) efforts to provide a safe, humane, respectful and rehabilitative environment for the incarcerated transgender, non-binary and intersex community.

photo of Black Trans protestors

Trans women are historically more vulnerable to arrest and incarceration, due to a higher likelihood of unemployment and poverty and to discriminatory laws. California still has legislation on the books that allows police to arrest Trans women for walking on the street. Readers of UltraViolet are very aware that Trans people in prison experience particularly high rates of discrimination and violence, often at the hands of corrections officers. Trans people face incidents of sexual assault 13 times higher than that of straight inmates, according to a 2007 study from the University of California at Irvine.

Laws like California’s have also recently been passed in Connecticut and Massachusetts. These laws operate in accordance with the Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which states that decisions about housing an inmate cannot be based solely on their genitalia, and requires that an incarcerated person’s views on their own personal safety must be seriously considered.

The number of people in California prisons is 99,537. There are 1,274 incarcerated people who self-identify as transgender or have symptoms of gender dysphoria; this number also includes intersex people and those who identify as gender non-conforming or non-binary. By May, 261 had applied for a transfer and 21 have been approved. No one, so far, has been outright rejected, but only 4 have actually been transferred.

SB 132 comes in the midst of an epidemic of violence against transgender people, in particular Trans women. 2020 was the most deadly year on record for Trans people, of which at least half were Black or Latinx women. And 2021 seems to be another dangerous year for Trans people, both in terms of physical attacks and legislative ones. The real answer is not more laws, good or bad. The real answer is to CLOSE THE PRISONS!


Author: lagai

LAGAI-Queer Insurrection is one of the oldest radical queer liberation groups in the U.S. We publish UltraViolet, a more or less bimonthly newspaper, which is mailed free of charge to over 1500 people, including over 800 prisoners. Our website is

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