LGBT people face unique and severe challenges in the prison system, including serious threats to their safety.
I am thrilled to report that The LGBT Prisoner Safety Act, AB 382, came one step closer to becoming law yesterday, passing the Assembly Public Safety Committee with a unanimous 7-0 vote, winning the endorsement of the entire committee, including five Democrats and two Republicans. Sponsored by EQCA and introduced last month by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill is designed to prevent violence against LGBT people in the state prison system.
The legislation promotes safety for and prevents abuse and assault against LGBT people in the prison system by including sexual orientation and gender identity on the list of factors that should be considered when classifying and housing prisoners. The current list of factors includes age, gender, type of offense, and prior time served.
Shelly Resnick, a transgender survivor of the prison system, can testify to the urgent need for more protections:
“If the CDCR properly recognized my transgender status and listened to my requests for safer housing from the beginning, instead of throwing me into a maximum security general population prison, I am confident that I would not have been assaulted.”
This bill is extremely important. According to a recent study from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 67 percent of LGBT inmates report being sexually assaulted by another inmate, a rate 15 times higher than the overall prison population.
I think my friend, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, said it best when he introduced the bill:
“All people deserve basic protections — including those serving time in our state prisons. No prisoner should fear for his or her life or be the target of abuse because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.”
We were going to do an Action Alert to our members to get them to contact the committee, but we didn’t need to. The Assemblymembers clearly saw the need for this legislation and supported it 100 percent. It may be a different story when this bill goes before the full Assembly, and then (hopefully) the full Legislature. We may just have to sound the alarm then, but I’m confident EQCA members will rise to the occasion and contact their representatives through our online Action Center, should it come to that. I encourage everyone who cares about this bill to sign up at www.eqca.org/takeaction.
The Senate Committee on Public Safety already held a meeting on the matter in December, chaired by Sen. Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles), and this legislation is a direct result of those discussions. Along with NCLR, Just Detention International, the Transgender, Gender Variant & Intersex Justice Project, and the Transgender Law Center, EQCA was able to plead the case for LGBT prisoners.
Marriage has been a front page story for a while now, especially in the past year. Once same-sex couples reach this basic threshold of equality, it will be a lot easier to fight injustice and discrimination in other areas, too. However, other critical challenges face our community. A state of equality is built brick by brick.
The Prisoner Safety Act is about protecting the most vulnerable members of our community, those who often cannot protect themselves without our help.
–Alice Kessler, EQCA Government Affairs Director, reposted from the California Ripple Effect.