SACRAMENTO - Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Prisoner Safety Act, AB 633, on the grounds that the bill was too similar to a prisoner safety bill he vetoed last year. Introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill was designed to prevent violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially transgender people in the state prison system. The bill received bipartisan support in both the State Senate and Assembly and is co-sponsored by Equality California, the Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
"The governor's reluctance to codify vital protections for LGBT prisoners into state law is truly heart-breaking," said Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors. "This bill was, in fact, different from the LGBT prisoner safety bill we sponsored last year in that it would have required the state to adopt national LGBT prisoner safety guidelines. The legislation would have been an important tool in preventing violence against LGBT prisoners and ensuring that they have access to the same safeguards under the law as other inmates. Despite this setback, we will work on administrative reform and will continue to partner with Assemblymember Ammiano to bring legislation next year when we have a new governor to ensure that similar legislation is passed and signed into law."
According to a study by UC Irvine commissioned by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 69 percent of transgender inmates report sexual victimization while incarcerated.
"By vetoing AB 633, Governor Schwarzenegger has yet again neglected to help alleviate violence in California prisons," said Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center. "Transgender people are thirteen times more likely to be sexually assaulted in prison than non-transgender inmates. The National Prisoner Rape Elimination Commission Standards are well-researched, practical and promising. It is shameful that implementation of these standards has been further delayed."
AB 633 promotes safety for and prevents assaults against LGBT people in the prison system by amending the Sexual Abuse in Detention Elimination Act (SADEA) of 2005. The bill would have included information provided by inmates regarding their own safety concerns related to sexual orientation and gender identity on the list of factors for consideration when assessing whether inmates were at a heightened risk for assault. The list of current factors includes, age, type of offense and prior time served.
"I am extremely disappointed that the governor chose not to protect and empower one of the most vulnerable groups in the state's penal system," said Bamby Salcedo, President of the Trans-Latina/o Coalition. "As someone who has been through the California penal system, I experienced firsthand the injustices that transgender prisoners face. My life was constantly endangered, I was harassed by other inmates and I was even a victim of sexual assault. This bill would have gone a long way in preventing LGBT inmates from experiencing the abuse I faced."
In addition, the legislation would have: required the state to adopt a portion of the National Prisoner Rape Elimination Commission Standards, designed to safeguard LGBT inmates; required the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to not automatically segregate LGBT inmates, treatment considered to be punitive; and safeguarded LGBT inmates from having to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identify to prison officials. The bill would have also saved the state money due to decreased litigation and healthcare expenses.
The legislation originally developed following a Senate Public Safety Committee meeting that was chaired by Senator and former Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles). Held in San Francisco in December 2008 and sponsored by Equality California, the Transgender Law Center, Just Detention International, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender, Gender Variant & Intersex Justice Project, the meeting exposed the dire issues facing LGBT people in California prisons in order to produce concrete solutions.
About TLC The Transgender Law Center (TLC) is a civil rights organization advocating for transgender communities. TLC uses direct legal services, education, community organizing and advocacy to transform California into a state that recognizes and supports the needs of transgender people and their families. www.transgenderlawcenter.org