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California Women’s Prison Housing Trans Prisoners Halts Condom Distribution Without Explanation, Memo Shows

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • A California women’s correctional facility housing transgender prisoners has halted the distribution of condoms without explanation, according to documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) would not tell the DCNF why the condom distribution at the California Institution for Women was halted. 
  • In January, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law requiring that the CDCR house individuals in correctional facilities “based on the individual’s preference.” 

A Southern California women’s correctional facility housing transgender prisoners has stopped distributing condoms without explanation, documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation show.

Minutes from a July 9 meeting of the Inmate Advisory Council at the California Institution for Women (CWI) reveal discussions between prison officials and inmates regarding body cameras worn by officers during strip searches of prisoners, housing arrangements, inmate pregnancies, wider shower curtains and condom distribution.

According to documents obtained by the DCNF, Associate Warden Rob Kettle said during the meeting that the distribution of condoms within the prison had sparked “great concern.” The warden references “the current makeup” of the population as a reason for formerly distributing condoms to the prisoners, but said that the prison had decided to halt condom distribution. (RELATED: Two-Time Baby Killer Among Trans Prison Inmates Housed At CA Women’s Facility)

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prohibits and disciplines inmate sexual activity, but state correctional facilities are still obligated to offer condoms under Penal Code 6500, CDCR deputy press secretary Terry Thornton told the DCNF, noting that in female prisons, the condoms are intended for overnight family visits and are not necessarily available to the entire general population.

“AW Kettle stated that there has been great concern regarding the decision to provide condoms,” the minutes obtained by the DCNF said. “Condom dispensers were installed because the administration believed it was the right thing to do given the current makeup of the population. The issuance of condoms has been halted.”

“The decision was made by individuals higher than the Warden,” the minutes continued, apparently quoting Kettle. “This is all the information available at this time.”

A National Park Service ranger walks down "Broadway" in the main cell block on Alcatraz Island, 14 June 2007 in San Francisco Bay of California. / (Photo credit ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

A National Park Service ranger walks down “Broadway” in the main cell block on Alcatraz Island, 14 June 2007 in San Francisco Bay of California. / (Photo credit ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Kettle has not responded to requests for comment from the DCNF.

“I can’t tell you why he said what he did,” the CDCR’s deputy press secretary told the DCNF of Kettle’s comments. “All I can tell you is that condoms have been available in the institutions since 2015.”

Thornton would not tell the DCNF why CDCR halted distribution of condoms, saying only that CDCR is “evaluating possible expansion” of condom distribution “beyond just to women having family visits and women who are about to be released from prison.”

Thornton would not explain why CDCR is evaluating expanding condom usage.

California Institution For … by Mary Margaret Olohan

Legal director of the feminist organization Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) Lauren Adams said that WoLF is “disturbed” to hear that CWI stopped the distribution of condoms to incarcerated women “rather than to prevent them from being needed in the first place.”

“These condoms were a band-aid on the bullet wound of cruelty and violence that is SB 132, which forces women to be housed with male offenders,” Adams told the DCNF, referring to legislation signed by Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom in September 2020. “This move is particularly concerning in light of the reports of pregnancy and sexual assault already coming out of the prisons, and given the fact that several of the men reportedly have HIV.”

Multiple female prisoners have told WoLF that they have been assaulted by their transgender cellmates, Adams told the DCNF. The organization, which said it communicates with prisoners in CIW, has also said that at least one woman has become pregnant after being housed with a biologically male cellmate.

The DCNF has not independently confirmed cases of pregnancy due to transgender prisoners housed in female prisons.

Thornton outright denied the reports, calling them “inaccurate.” The deputy press secretary said that there are pregnant inmates in CIW, but those inmates were reportedly pregnant before they arrived at the prison.

Since SB 132 went into effect in January, seven biological males have been housed in CIW and 14 biological males have been housed in Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, California, CDCR data shows.

CDCR data also shows that there have been zero incidents of inmate assaults on another prisoner since January 2021 and six incidents of inmate battery on a prisoner. Thornton told the DCNF that CDCR does not report whether individuals involved in the assaults were transgender.

California Putting Biological Males In Women’s Prisons

SB 132 requires the CDCR to ask every individual entering the department’s custody to specify their pronouns, their gender identity, and whether they identify as transgender, nonbinary or intersex.

The law prevents CDCR from disciplining the individual if that individual refuses to give this information, allows for the information to be updated later on, and requires staff to use the gender pronouns that the individual requested.

It also requires that CDCR house the individual in a “correctional facility designated for men or women based on the individual’s preference.” Similar legislation has been passed in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

As of July 26, 295 inmates who were formerly housed in a male institution have requested to be housed in a female institution, the CDCR told the DCNF.

The DCNF previously reported in April that a biologically male twice-convicted baby killer was housed in a women’s facility — with the mother of the prisoner’s murdered children — as a result of California’s policies.

Forty-six-year-old Jessica M. Hann, formerly known as Jason Michael Hann, was transferred to Central California Women’s Facility in February 2020 where the mother of Hann’s children, 41-year-old Krissy Lynn Werntz, had been incarcerated since July 2014.

A view of a new emergency care facility that was erected to treat inmates infected with COVID-19 at San Quentin State Prison on July 08, 2020 in San Quentin, California.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A view of a new emergency care facility that was erected to treat inmates infected with COVID-19 at San Quentin State Prison on July 08, 2020 in San Quentin, California.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Hann underwent a state-funded gender transition while incarcerated. (RELATED: 255 California Prison Inmates Have Requested Transfer To Women’s Prisons Since January)

Hann and Werntz were imprisoned after authorities discovered the deceased remains of the couple’s son, Jason, and daughter, Montana, hidden in abandoned trailers. The couple was indicted by a grand jury in 2009, and attorneys said that Hann killed the children and Werntz hid the remains and brought them on travels throughout the country.

Biologically Female Prisoners Face Possible Pregnancy

During the July 9 meeting, prison officials said that biologically male prisoners (transgender females) will be “clustered for their orientation period” and then will be allowed to house with “someone they are compatible with.”

Associate Warden Kettle said during the July 9 meeting that “no one will be forced to live with a transgender female” and that there are many housing options as “the population is very low.”

Prison officials also discussed whether individuals would be disciplined for becoming pregnant. Kettle said that pregnant individuals would not be placed in an administrative segregation unit unless there were safety concerns or the individual needed to be placed in ASU because of an investigation.

WoLF said in late July that the organization had heard from seven different people inside Central California Women’s Facility that at least one woman, and possibly more, is pregnant after she was housed with a biologically male prisoner transferred to her prison.

“Our connections tell us that at least 3 of the men have now been moved to Administrative Segregation,” WoLF tweeted in July.

In late June, WoLF issued a letter to Newsom, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Department of Corrections Secretary Kathleen Allison, “demanding an immediate halt to the transferring of male inmates to women’s prisons due to allegations that such policies place female inmates in danger and violate their civil rights.”

“Those running the prison system know how dangerous conditions have become for the women in California state custody,” the letter said. “Many of the correctional officers have openly acknowledged that they expect the women will be raped and assaulted, there will likely be pregnancies, and, in general, the environment will be ripe for exploitation of the women and challenging to control.”

“Some [correctional officers] have privately expressed concern and have reportedly urged leaders to take immediate action to right this wrong,” the letter said. “Conversely, at least one [correctional officer] has used this situation to torment the women in his care, threatening to put men in their cells to rape them.”

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