Opinion: Another crazy California law

Based on some of my past columns, some people may think that I’ve been hostile to or just sarcastic about our state lawmakers and the laws that they’ve enacted. I think that both evaluations of me and my columns are correct.


Late-night hosts, like Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert, often point to Florida as the “clown state,” and not just because the Clown Foundation is located in Lake Placid, FL. However, I believe that California is now giving Florida a run for its money, and not just because the Clown School is located in Los Angeles. In fact, Florida even has us trumped in that regard because the Clown College is in Venice, FL.


California crazy


The factor that may push California ahead of Florida as the “clown state” is that most of our clowns are members of the state legislature. In the past, I’ve written about some of the laws that have been introduced and passed that make the state a laughingstock. Just last week, I wrote about how California’s Instructional Quality Commission was intent upon “Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction.”


For more than a decade, I’ve opposed the construction of California’s High Speed Rail, not because I think that HSR is a bad idea, but because of the way our legislature and the HSR Authority have been pursuing it. It will be the slowest HSR in the world, and the most inconvenient because of our lack of public transportation at most of the stations.


This week, I’ll tell you about SB 132 (Senator Scott Wiener, San Francisco). The bill was introduced in September, 2020, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, and went into effect on January 1, 2021, as “The Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act.” On the surface, it sounds sort of innocuous, given our current politically correct posture. But this bill is aimed specifically at… (Wait for it)… tailoring one’s prison experience to his/her/its sexual preference. Honest.


I find myself writing “Honest” a lot when I discuss California’s new laws because I’m sure that most people would think that I’m kidding. Really, you can’t make this stuff up. Well, actually I suppose our legislators can. Maybe they teach that stuff in Clown School. I went to state-supported colleges and universities, and they didn’t cover slap-stick.


Beyond belief


Anyway, “SB 132 requires CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) to ask each person during initial intake and in a private setting to specify their gender identity (male, female, non-binary); whether they identify as transgender, non-binary or intersex; and their gender pronoun and honorific.”


So far, as they say in certain sports, no harm, no foul. But wait.


The bill goes a bit further. “All incarcerated people who are transgender, non-binary or intersex are to be searched in a manner consistent with their gender identity or according to the gender designation of the facility where they are housed, based on the person’s search preference.”


If you think that this section of the bill gives a prisoner the right to tell prison guards how and where they may be searched, you’re correct. When I was a kid, there was a bank robber named Willie Sutton who broke out of jail three times. Long before Bill Clinton, he was called Slick Willie. If he’d had this option, I bet he would have broken out of jail a lot more often.


Now, here comes the topper. “SB 132 requires the CDCR to house a person who identifies as transgender, non-binary or intersex in a correctional facility — including residential reentry facilities — designated for men or women based on their preference.”


Honest. (There I go, again.)


Repercussions


According to the Los Angeles Times, there have been 261 requests for transfers so far this year. Moreover, 1,129 inmates have identified themselves as being nonbinary, intersex or transgender, according to the corrections department. LA Times reporter Leila Miller who interviewed people at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla says that “inmates say that guards have warned them that ‘men are coming’ and to expect sexual violence.”


When Chuck Hohm and I wrote “California’s Social Problems,” we said that trends that begin in the Golden State often spread nationwide. Abigail Shrier, writing for the Wall Street Journal, agrees. She writes, “Crazy California laws occasionally go national. Take SB 132… (which) allows transgender-identified male state prison inmates to transfer into women’s prisons based on ‘individual preference’ — no hormones, surgery or time spent living as the opposite sex required.”


Ms. Shrier appeared before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to speak against the national Equality Act which contains some similar wording to California’s SB 132. She reports that she “told the lawmakers that although the vast majority of transgender Americans are peaceful, decent and law-abiding, the overbroad bill would be subject to abuse by opportunistic male felons.”


While at the women’s prison in Chowchilla, Shrier learned that the guards were as worried as the inmates about the pending arrival of male prisoners. One common perception was that male prisoners are more violent than female inmates, and guards in Chowchilla are armed only with batons and pepper spray.


The reporter then asked a question that’s probably been on your mind as you read this article. Have any transgender women inmates requested transfer to a male facility? The answer is yes. Seven. Shrier then queried, “Why so few?” Amie Ichikawa, a former inmate at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla who is forming a nonprofit organization to help currently incarcerated women, had a succinct response: “They would be killed.”


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Jim Glynn is Professor Emeritus of Sociology who grits his teeth every time he has to copy the singular “they.” He may be contacted at j_glynn@att.net.