Incarcerated Women Brace for Influx of Male Inmates

A reflection on my piece in the Wall Street Journal

Pictured: Amie Ichikawa, Founder of WomanIIWoman

The piece that follows may be the most urgent I have written.

The women with whom I spoke – currently and formerly incarcerated at “Chowchilla” prison (as the Central California Correctional Facility is colloquially known), this state’s highest security women’s prison – are watching as biological males begin to self-identify as females and transfer in. Washington state, which has a similar policy, has already allowed a rapist and serial killer of women to transfer into the women’s prison. As is true in Washington state, California requires no sex reassignment surgeries or hormones for men to become eligible for transfer to the women’s prison. Self-identification is enough. With good reason, these women are terrified.

Nearly all women who commit violent crimes, they told me, do so under the influence of a brutal man (normally a domestic partner). That does not excuse their crimes, of course. Their victims deserved justice; the women deserved incarceration. But it does provide context to their understanding of their new roommates: men, in their experience, are frequently vicious and terrifying. Now, they will be trapped in close quarters with male bodies. Being terrorized in this manner was never part of their sentence.

Many of these women are victims of sexual abuse. Rochelle Johnson is currently serving a life sentence in Chowchilla for felony murder (she was not the killer, but participated in a robbery in which the victim was stabbed). “How are you going to force me to live with somebody when you don’t know what I went through as a child--you don’t know what I went through to make me dislike men?” she said.

Almost no one cares about these women. As convicted felons, many of them have lost their right to vote. Their social and political power is nearly non-existent. But when I sat down with them, I met women who spoke more sense about the reality of sex differences than I find almost anywhere.

And here’s why this piece is so urgent: In a matter of months, as male-bodied offenders enter the system simply as “female,” it may be impossible to write about this issue at all.

For the moment, the transfers are arriving from male prison. But under California law (and that of other states with similar laws – and presumably all states, if the Equality Act passes), male convicts will soon not need to begin their sentence at the male prison. They will simply identify as women at time of conviction and go straight into women’s prison as “female inmates.” In other words, they may soon be untraceable by journalists or feminist groups who would want to know how the women trapped in this experiment are faring.

As other new laws go into effect, for example, allowing the changing of sex on birth certificates, and as it increasingly becomes regarded as an act of impermissible discrimination to record biological sex that conflicts with ‘gender identity’ on any public document – it may be impossible to know which of the prisoners at women’s facilities are biologically male. The violence they perpetrate against the female prisoners will simply be recorded as ‘women on women’ violence. Only those at the prison will be the wiser; the rest of us will live behind an epistemological blockade. And an experiment of ghastly indifference to the lives and safety of these women, will be deemed a progressive victory.

Thank you, WSJ Opinion, for publishing the piece in the June 1, 2021 print edition of the Wall Street Journal. Link available here. I will post the full text after it has appeared in the print edition of the Wall Street Journal.

And thank you, dear Subscribers of The Truth Fairy, for making this work possible. I’m grateful to all of you beyond words.

I hope you enjoy my interview with the women of Chowchilla.