Safety & Dignity for Incarcerated Women
To Those With the Power to Make it Stop:
June 21, 2021
Since Senator Scott Wiener and Governor Gavin Newsom passed SB 132, “The Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act” we have received hundreds of distressed messages from our sisters inside. They are scared, angry, confused and in disbelief that legislators completely left them out of a decision that affects their mental health and safety 24 hours a day. We started working on getting this information moving and into the ears of the right people. And the calls and cries for help kept coming.
Incarcerated women in California are preparing themselves for a major influx of transfers from the men’s prisons. This isn’t limited to transwomen, who deserve to safely do their time as well. This includes any man who checks the “non-binary” box and can call himself anything he wants. Anyone can gender self ID to get a transfer, and who wouldn’t? What predator wouldn’t take advantage of this opportunity to serve their sentence surrounded by potential new victims who are too scared to stand up for themselves because they’ve been silenced and ignored so much that they think they don’t matter? Who wouldn’t take advantage of this golden ticket chance to take over a whole prison and extort everyone? How does it protect transwomen to bring the same problems to the women’s prisons?
There’s some very sick people in this world and most of you do not understand just how sick they are. But most incarcerated women understand all too well. There is a spirit of defeat, fear and anxiety lingering around the units trying to infect their minds. They’re strong, but each person can only take so much.
You have to understand some things. Men’s prisons and women’s prisons are different. The people whose transfer requests are being granted are coming from an entirely different environment. The men wake up early everyday to work out. They’re militant, they’re training to kill or be killed and they live in a concrete hell that is similar, but much worse, than everything you’ve seen on TV. They’re often segregated by race, gang, nature of crime. A men’s level 4 prison is nothing like a woman’s level 4 prison.
Women wake up in the morning and make each other coffee. Some women get up early to pray, some do yoga, others have to get ready for work, and all eight of us do this in a cell that was built for four people. All eight women are different security levels; shoplifters and killers are all housed together. In this tiny room, we eat, sleep, shower and use the toilet. All eight of us.
There is solidarity and there is a sense of community of women surviving together. These women are trying to learn how to heal, and now they’re making sleep schedules so that one woman is always on watch to make sure no one gets raped. The prisons have brought in new strong pepper spray and riot control measures, because they know men are stronger and more violent. This places women at further risk of harm from guards when we likely weren’t even the ones starting trouble in the first place.
Yesterday we were told that CCWF is considering cutting down the only shade trees in the yard because the men will use them as weapons. The women are worried that with the trees gone, the birds will go too. These women are locked in cages – some of them for the rest of their lives – and you want to cut off their only connection to nature because you have locked them in there with men who can’t be controlled?
The women ask us every day for help and for answers about why this is being done to them. We pray to God to protect these women, and for Governor Newsom, Attorney General Bonta, and CDCR Secretary Allison to find the strength and willingness not to ignore their cries for help.
And hundreds of women still inside who can’t safely speak out