LGBTI Prisoner Bill Passes

Commentary by Boyce Hinman
Assembly Bill 633, written to protect sexual minorities, among others, in California’s prisons, has now been approved by the California legislature and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. The Governor vetoed a virtually identical bill (AB 382) in 2008. So it is far from certain that he will sign AB 633 this time.

AB 633 would require the California Department of Corrections to consider self-reported safety concerns related to the sexual orientation or gender identity, of prison inmates when classifying inmates or wards of the prison system. AB 633 was introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-SF) and sponsored by Equality California.

 

This might result in (but would not require) housing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inmates separately from the general prison population for their own safety. However, the bill specifically prohibits punishment of LGBTI inmates who choose not to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill says inmates should not be required to disclose this information.

A study by researchers at the Center for Evidence-based Corrections (at UC Irvine) demonstrates the importance of this legislation. The study found that four percent of the 322 surveyed inmates report being sexually assaulted in California prisons. Among transgender inmates, 59 percent reported being sexually assaulted while incarcerated -- 13 times more than the general prison population.

In general, inmates were at a greater risk of being raped if they were non-heterosexual, black, had mental health problems or were of smaller stature.

Help is needed in persuading the Governor to sign AB 633. Interested people can find an easy way to write the Governor in support of this bill by visiting www.calcomui.org/takeactionnow.html and clicking on the link which says ”Support AB 633 Protect LGBTI Inmates.”

Boyce Hinman is the founder of the California Communities United Institute. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or calcomui.org

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