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California Enacts Legislation Strengthening Protections for LGBTQ Prisoners

The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act amended the California Penal Code by adding Sections 2605 and 2606. The act noted that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that disregarding the heightened risk transgender prisoners have of being victims of sexual harassment and abuse is unconstitutional deliberate indifference, and a California study found transgender women prisoners were sexually assaulted 13 times more often than other prisoners at the same prisons and 40% of transgender individuals reported being harassed by prisoners while 38% said they were harassed by staff.

Section 2605 requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to privately ask prisoners during intake their gender identity (male, female, or nonbinary); whether they identify as transgender, nonbinary, or intersex; and their gender pronoun and honorific.

The law forbids disciplinary action for refusing to answer or for incomplete disclosure while permitting prisoners to inform designated staff of their gender identity, pronoun and honorific at any time. It also prohibits staff, contractors, and volunteers from consistently failing to use the gender pronoun and honorific specified by the prisoner in verbal and written communications. It defines “gender pronoun” as “a third-person singular personal pronoun such as ‘he,’ ‘she,’ or ‘they,’” and “honorific” as “a form of respectful address typically combined with an individual’s surname.”

Section 2606 requires that transgendered, nonbinary, or intersex CDCR prisoners be addressed in a manner consistent with the prisoners’ gender identity, be housed at a men’s or women’s prison according to their preference, and be searched in accordance with the search policy for their gender identity or the policy of the prison where they are housed, according to the prisoners’ preference.

It requires that the prisoners’ perception of their health and safety be given serious consideration in bed assignments, placement, or programming decisions, including granting single-cell status, housing the prisoner with a person of their choice, or removing prisoners who pose a threat from any location from which they might have access to the LGBTQ+ prisoner who expressed a safety concern. It prohibits denying a search preference or housing request based on the requesting prisoner’s anatomy or sexual orientation.

Newsom also signed into law a bill that addresses health inequities in the free world for the LGBTQ community, especially as it relates to COVID-19, and legislation creating a Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund to “assist organizations serving people that identify as transgender, gender nonconforming, or intersex (TGI), and help create or fund TGI-specific housing programs and partnerships with hospitals, health care clinics and other medical providers to provide TGI-focused heath care,” according to the governor’s office.

“California has some of the strongest pro LGBTQ laws in the nation and with the bills signed today, our march toward equality takes an additional step forward,” said a statement by Newsom. 


Sources:, Senate Bill 132

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