On Wednesday October 30th, over sixty people rallied in front of the CDCr office building in Sacramento to demand an end to the sexual and gender-based violence that has targeted trans and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people in California’s prisons. The spirited gathering marched, chanted and listened as many formerly incarcerated people denounced the sexual and physical abuse they endured while inside prison. Stacy Rojas, lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the CDCr about the assaults, described their efforts to document incidents of guard abuse which led to a brutal attack against them and several other people in 2015. Another speaker explained that “we are only asking for them to be held accountable. The (prison) system is designed to hurt people who don’t conform. When you speak out about that, you become endangered.”
The rally was a powerful expression of outrage at repeated experiences of harassment and violence. It also demonstrated a fierce determination to work to ensure changes for those who remain behind bars. Demands included an end to the assaults and targeting of TGNC people in prison; a strict process to hold guards and staff accountable for abusive actions; and an end to retaliation against whistleblowers who report abuses. Plans are underway to hold a statewide Peoples Hearing in 2020 that can clearly expose what’s going on in prisons in California and all over the country and mobilize broad grassroots support for demands for change.