California

California receives 261 transgender prisoners transfer requests under new law – including 255 to women’s prison

California receives 261 transgender prisoners transfer
requests under new law – including 255 to women’s prison 1

CALIFORNIA – 261 California inmates have requested transfers to prisons aligning with their claimed gender identity since Gov. Gavin Newsom signed S.B. 132 into law in September allowing prisoners to choose their gender for prison placement.

S.B. 132 requires California correctional facilities to house prisoners in a “correctional facility designated for men or women based on the individual’s preference.”

255 of the 261 inmates requested to transfer from a male to a female correctional facility. Some officials and women’s rights groups are concerned that such transfers are being made “under false pretenses,” according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said only six prisoners requested a transfer to a male institution. Deputy Press Secretary Terry Thornton said:

“255 are from transgender women and non-binary incarcerated people who are requesting to be housed in a female institution and six are from transgender men and non-binary incarcerated people who are requesting to be housed in a male institution.”

CDCR reported that no transfer requests based on gender identity have been denied. The agency said that 21 requests have been approved since the signing of the new law and that four have been transferred to the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.

Thornton said that two of the prisoners changed their minds about the transfer request.

Prisoners at Central California Women’s Facility warned that prisoners should expect violence over the transfers. 41-year-old Tomiekia Johnson to the Times that she overheard inmates discussing the transfers:

“That if we think it’s bad now, be prepared for the worst. That it’s going to be off the hook, it’s going to be jumping. They say we’re going to need a facility that’s going to be like a maternity ward.

They say we’re going to have an inmate program where inmates become nannies.”

Prison inmates and staff are concerned over the potential for male inmates to falsely claim to identify as female in order to get into female prisons. Thornton responded to the concerns by pointing to CDCR policy which states:

“CDCR’s classification process includes a thorough review of the incarcerated person’s history prior to and during incarceration, their crime, arrest and criminal history, trial and sentencing documentation, medical and mental health needs, custody level, time to serve, safety concerns, and other factors including security and program needs.

Medical and mental health care staff members are part of this process.

“Information documented includes their age, disabilities, gender identity, personal and criminal history, prior incarcerations, prior incidents of victimization either in custody or in the community, and convictions for sex offenses.

Based on the information gathered in the PREA Screening Tool, an inmate will be given one of three designations: at risk as a victim, at risk as an abuser, or not identified as being at risk.

Inmates at risk as a victim cannot be housed in a cell with an inmate identified as being at risk as an abuser.”

The law was passed with the intention of reducing sexual offenses against transgender inmates. However, the policy is not likely to calm the nerves of female prisoners concerned about violence generated from allowing men into female prisons.

A similar policy in Canada allows trans-identifying male prisoners to be housed in female prisons and women’s rights groups have been protesting the practice.

 Heather Mason, head of the Canadian chapter of the international “Keep Prisons Single Sex” campaign, said women are the victims of such policies:

“Female offenders from indigenous communities make up 42 percent of the Canadian prison population. Many of them already come from abusive situations but are afraid to speak up and suffer the consequences.”

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Report: California sent more than $42M in coronavirus relief funds to out-of-state inmates

January 6, 2021

CALIFORNIA- An analysis has recently found that more than $42 million in claims went to out-of-state inmates in prisons and jails, giving more clarity to what officials now estimate to be nearly $4 billion in scammed coronavirus relief funds.

On Tuesday, January 5th, the Los Angeles Times reported:

“A large number of Florida inmates, including a man sentenced to 20 years for second-degree murder, are among the thousands of out-of-state prisoners who have allegedly received California pandemic unemployment benefits, according to a December analysis commissioned by the state Employment Development Department and reviewed by The Times.”

The Times added:

“This analysis compared data on incarcerated individuals nationwide against nearly 10 million people on the state pandemic unemployment rolls and found that the EDD approved more than 6,000 claims, totaling more than $42 million, involving individuals who were probably incarcerated elsewhere when they were paid by California.”

The Times concluded:

“Altogether, the analysis found there were more than 20,000 claims deemed at high or moderate risk of having been paid to an incarcerated person, either in California or another state. If all those claims were fraudulent, the $42 million estimate of payments to inmates would jump to $96 million.”

According to reports, California, then nation’s most populous state, has processed more than 16 million unemployment benefits since March, a byproduct of the pandemic that prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to order businesses to close. 

The EDD has struggled to keep up with the demand, facing intense pressure to work through a backlog that at one time numbered more than 1.6 million people. However, the agency’s haste to approve claims coupled with the expanded benefits Congress approved with few safeguards, it is much easier for criminals to cheat the system.

Back in December 2020, Bank of America, which issues EDD benefit cards, told state lawmakers that it had identified about 345,000 fraudulent claims worth about $2 billion. That figure is expected to rise.

California has already acknowledged that it has paid about $40 million in the names of 21,000 California prison inmates, including some on death row. Reportedly, the database used in the analysis covered only 33 of California’s 58 county jails and it also did not include all 50 states.

More than 2,000 of the high-risk claims identified in the EDD analysis are inmates of the Florida Department of Correction or county jails in that state.

Along with the convicted murderer, identified in the report as Nakeva Thorton, 43, who allegedly received $10,800 in payments and was sentenced back in 2012, the report highlights another Florida inmate serving time for burglary and failure to comply with sex offender rules who allegedly received $9,000. 

The analysis also identified more than 1,660 California inmates as being at a high risk of having receiving benefits while incarcerated, including more than 700 people booked in Orange County’s jail.

According to the report, in one California claim, an inmate at Shasta County jail, charged with murder and incarcerated since 2014, received $167 weekly for 16 weeks beginning in March. 

The analysis results outraged some state lawmakers. Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), who chairs the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review said in a statement:

“Absurd fraud policies have made California’s EDD a target for prisoners nationwide. What a shameful waste of taxpayer dollars.”

In a recent tweet, the department announced it was halting payments on some approved claims until they could be verified, including legitimate recipients because of fears of ongoing fraud. The department did not say how many claims were suspended.

Gov. Newsom has appointed Rita L. Saenz to oversee the EDD, replacing retired director Sharon Hilliard. In his announcement, Newsom said that has confidence that Saenz could stop the fraud in the system.

Newsom said that he is confident she will help the department pay claims in a timely way “while simultaneously stopping fraud in our systems and holding people who have committed fraud accountable.” 

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