In collaboration with community advocates and academics, SJLF is investigating the lack of gender affirming housing for trans and gender nonconforming individuals re-entering the community after being incarcerated. SJLF is also working with UCLA’s Williams Institute on a report discussing the issue, including the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) treatment of trans individuals seeking parole.
SJLF is investigating the lack of gender-affirming housing for trans and gender nonconforming individuals reentering the community after being incarcerated. When trans individuals are released from prison or jail and ordered to attend either a residential rehabilitation program or required to live in transitional housing (commonly referred to as a “halfway house”) they are often discriminated against because such housing is gender segregated and gender-affirming housing is unavailable.
In June 2022 – in response to concerns from grassroots advocates regarding the lack of safe reentry housing facilities for trans individuals – SJLF submitted a public records act (PRA) request to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) seeking documents regarding its treatment of trans individuals who are seeking parole. In response, SJLF received over 3,000 pages of documents. Our analysis revealed that these individuals’ inability to procure reentry housing due to discriminatory practices also result in a denial of parole. In November, we presented our findings from the PRA to a group of advocates who assist trans and gender nonconforming individuals in reentry.
In April of 2023, SJLF co-authored a report regarding our data with the UCLA Williams Institute. Our report found that 43% of parole hearings for transgender and nonbinary people included misgendering and/or insensitive comments.
For instance, one nonbinary 44-year-old individual asked to be addressed by name, rather than any pronoun, but the commissioners pushed the parole seeker to choose a pronoun. On another occasion, a commissioner questioned whether a parole seeker would remain sober because the “LGBTQ community has big parties.”
In January 2021, California enacted the Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act (TRADA), which requires, among other things, that CDCR use proper gender pronouns and honorifics for transgender/nonbinary people in CDCR custody.
For the first time since the enactment of TRADA, researchers reviewed transcripts of 42 parole hearings from January 1, 2021 – February 28, 2022 in which the individual seeking parole identified as transgender or nonbinary. They aimed to understand how transgender and nonbinary individuals fare in parole hearings.
Results also show that about one-third of transgender/nonbinary parole seekers were granted parole, at about the same rate as the general population of parole seekers during that time period.
Having an explicit housing plan was an important factor in granting parole—56% of transgender/nonbinary people with a housing plan were granted parole as compared to 13% of individuals who did not have an explicit housing plan.
“Finding appropriate transitional housing is extraordinarily challenging for transgender individuals" Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute