California forces female prison guards to strip search men who claim to be women

Female prison guards have spoken out about the trauma they have experienced as a result of the policy.

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
California female corrections officers are being forced to perform naked strip searches on male inmates who claim to be women due to the state's new gender inclusion policy. The men are often fully intact, full-grown males, who claim to be transgender. The process to determine if a male really does believe himself to be a woman is to believe him when he says he is.

Female prison guards have spoken out about the trauma they have experienced as a result of the policy, with some claiming that male convicts are abusing the law by requesting to be searched by female guards so that they could be naked in front of the women, the National Review reports.

Prior to the implementation of The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act in 2021, female prison officers were prohibited from conducting unclothed strip searches on male inmates except in the case of an emergency. Now, the policy makes them conduct searches on men as long as the men claim they are women. Refusal to do so brings disciplinary consequences.

"Incarcerated individuals who are transgender, non-binary, or intersex must be searched according to the gender designation of the institution where they are housed or based on the individual's search preference," the official prison policy states. The abrupt policy change has unsettled female corrections officers at the California Institution for Men, most commonly referred to as Chino. Rather than asking to be sent to a women's facility, like the California Institution for Women, some male inmates who identify as women—or who have even had hormone therapy and transition surgeries—choose to remain at Chino.

Under the new policy, male prisoners who identify as transgender have the right to ask only to have female guards search. Female Chino officers, both past and present, told National Review that they must conduct the searches or they risk being fined or fired. Paula James, a recently retired Chino female prison guard, told the publication that the state's transgender accommodations has created a a frightening and unfair work environment.

"As a corrections officer myself, I wasn't supposed to be stripping male inmates down. You're not supposed to unless it's an emergency situation. You can get in trouble, it's considered rape...I've been taught that my whole career. Then all of a sudden, now some of these men are saying they are women, but they still have all the parts," said James.

Though they are now compelled to search male prisoners, including cavity searches, not that long ago, female guards risked punishment if they searched prisoners of the opposite gender, even if they believed the search was necessary because of an emergency. According to James, prison officers are warned during training that they risk losing their jobs if they refuse to conduct a search on an inmate of the other sex because "it's refusing a direct order from your sergeant."

Some younger female officers have expressed worry to James before her retirement, but others are more eager to follow the new gender-inclusion policy because they haven't encountered anything different. James said she received reports from other female guards that they believe male prisoners have asked to be searched by women "just to make the officer see them."
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