'We’re now prey for men': California women inmates decry being housed with male prisoners

Women's prison.
Women's prison. | Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

Female inmates in the California prison system say they're now "prey for men" as correctional facilities prepare for an uptick in rapes and pregnancies following a policy change that allows men who identify as female to be transferred to women’s-only prisons.  

At medical clinics inside the Central California Women’s Facility, newly available resources suggest that women housed there should anticipate a heightened risk of being raped. As all sex inside the prison system is deemed non-consensual by default, the influx of men in women's-only facilities only increases that risk, according to the radical feminist group Women’s Liberation Front

Posters displayed in these medical clinics advertise a variety of options for “pregnant people” who might become pregnant while in prison. The methods available to female inmates to prevent pregnancies are condoms and the emergency contraception Plan B. Yet these measures were only deemed necessary after the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation started allowing men, who claim a gender identity other than their biological sex, to be housed with women earlier this year, Women’s Liberation Front's sources reported.

“Trusted sources inside California Institute of Women tell us that one reason for the backlog in transferring men who have requested transfer is the prison is making the men take a course in how to deal with their fears about living with women. In April, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation implemented a new mandatory 16-hour class as a prerequisite for any inmates wishing to transfer,” the group added.  

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In light of the passage of SB 132 going into effect in January, approximately 300 requests were filed from male prisoners seeking to transfer to the women’s prison. Thus far, around 20 have been processed and no request has been denied. 

At a recent captains’ meeting at the Central California Women’s Facility, a woman reportedly read a statement in which she implored prison staff for help, and said correctional officers disregarded their fears about having to share close quarters with a serial rapist.

“How do we feel safe in our community? When we reach out for help we get nothing. … There has been an assault on a woman and we still are silenced. We have had our hope taken away once again. Does anyone care that we are being forced to house with 6’2, 250-pound men with penises that are here for brutally raping women? We have been warned by the officials in this prison, more are coming with worse charges. Where is the safety concern for us? If we say we are in fear, we are the ones locked up,” the woman protested. 

Writing in the Santa Monica Observer earlier this month, Amber Jackson, who is incarcerated, asserted in an op-ed that what supporters of the bill allowing men to be housed with women under the banner of “gender identity” thought would never happen did happen almost immediately after the policy was implemented.

“The one man I saw up close looked unhealthy and possibly diseased. I have little doubt these transwomen are positive for communicable diseases. Very little. This is a disgusting time to be in prison,” she said.

An update to Jackson’s July 10 op-ed claims that three out of the four trans-identifying men that she wrote about are HIV-positive, according to a CIW officer. The department’s push to distribute condoms to the prison population for the purposes of avoiding liability was too late. 

“The condoms were not yet available when the sex began even though CDCR knew these three transwomen had HIV, and it was possible to spread through sexual intercourse. Most of the population does not know this as it is protected by Federal HIPPA [sic] legislation,” the update read.

In 2015, access to condoms became law in the Golden State. It was the second state in the nation, after Vermont, to allow all state prisoners to have access to condoms even though sex between prisoners is unlawful. 

Jackson wrote Tuesday, again in the Santa Monica Observer, that female inmates have become “prey for men.”

“What kind of human being would intentionally cause harm by placing a number [of] HIV-infected, anatomically male prisoners among the female prisoners?” she asked, adding that the general public is not aware that this is happening.

She continued: “Nobody is making this known. Nobody cares about us. We are in danger here. Make no mistake. Prison rape is nothing new. However, until now, there were never live males with full male anatomy sharing showers with us in a group shower room. We have male officers who have to announce their presence when they even walk down the hall! In case we're undressed! Yet, now men can share our showers.”

“Call yourself a 'woman' all you want. But when you have man, with a penis, that works as it was designed to do, that's a problem in a women's prison group shower room. That's a problem.”

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