The front of the Washington Corrections Center for Women. (Photo courtesy of WA Department of Corrections)
In an email from an employee at the Washington Correctional Center for Woman, KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show was informed that the facility in Pierce County has adopted the practice of allowing a transfer for any person who identifies as female.
The state is transferring transgender women, the employee says, and housing them in the general population with female cellmates. The only prerequisite, according to the employee, is that the individual must identify as female. They’re not required to be on hormones, have had reassignment surgery, nor be in the process of transitioning, they only “have to proclaim that they identify as a woman.”
There are half a dozen men who have been transferred to the women’s facility, according to the employee, and up to 150 biological men in line to be transferred in the coming months.
The concern related to these transfers among staff and inmates is a risk of sexual assault. The employee cites a recent incident in which an inmate from a male facility raped a female in the women’s prison upon arrival. The transferred inmate, according to the employee, is incarcerated for a sex offense and has “fully functional male genitalia, a history of violence and sexual depravity in the community, and has been found guilty of sexual assault against other inmates while housed in the men’s facilities.”
“He is a proven sexual predator, having committed multiple crimes against women, yet the State of Washington had no problem moving him into a women’s facility and housing him with the most vulnerable in our population (our mental health unit),” the employee wrote.
“Word of the incident has inevitably traveled throughout the facility, causing much concern amongst both inmates and staff,” the employee said. “It demonstrated the state’s willingness to put the most vulnerable of our population in harm’s way, by locking them in a cell with a proven predator, with zero accountability or repercussions for the perpetrator.”
Dori cited studies that have shown 86% of women who are in prison for felonies have been victims of sexual assault at some point in their lifetime. As wards of the state in our prisons, it is up to us, as a state, to keep them safe while they are in prison, Dori said.
“The inmates, the guards, they are terrified,” Dori said.
When reached for comment, the women’s correctional center neither confirmed nor denied the details in the email Dori shared with them from the anonymous employee. It has, however, been confirmed by law enforcement sources and a long-time prison employee.
The Dori Monson Show asked the prison if there are any qualifications that a person must meet prior to being transferred.
“Washington State Department of Corrections has established procedures to ensure equitable treatment of transgender, intersex, and/or gender non-conforming individuals when conducting intake screening and determining housing classification, programming, and supervision,” the DOC replied. “If they identify as transgender, intersex, and/or gender non-conforming, they are evaluated appropriately per this policy.”
In response to the employee’s incident report, the prison said the department does not have a record of an “open, pending, or closed case” that meets the specific criteria shared in the request.
“We are not able to share any specific information about allegations, reviews, and cases,” the DOH said.
The department declined an interview request.
Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer said his department has received a similar email and a number of calls.
“What we’ve done is we’ve gotten in touch with the state patrol because it is the state’s jurisdiction out there,” he said. “We’re making sure the state patrol is aware of this information that we’ve got from a couple different sources. And our command staff and detectives will be working with Washington State Patrol to make sure that they have everything they need, and everything we’ve got, and everything that’s out there.”
Troyer also explained the policy for transgender individuals at the correctional facility that’s run by the county.
“If a man comes in and identifies as a woman in our jail, what we do is, if they have not had the surgeries that come along with it,” they’re offered the chance to stay in a men’s facility as long they feel safe doing so, Troyer said. They can also opt to be placed by themselves, but they are not placed with women.
The state’s policy, Troyer said, is not known by his department.
“It is something we’re looking at, it’s new, and we’ve been looking at it through the weekend and today, and we’re going to continue to look at it to find out what, if anything, is out there that may or may not be criminal,” Troyer said.
Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.