We mostly think of prison guards as being there to keep the inmates in — to protect the public from the convicts. Turns out they also have the job of protecting inmates from inmates.
It may take some kind of sensitivity training to get the state Department of Corrections up to speed, since the California Supreme Court today refused to review a ruling that said guards owe their charges a special duty of care.
The court’s denial keeps alive a suit filed by Alexis Giraldo, a transgender woman who claims she was raped on many occasions while in Folsom State Prison in early 2006. She accused Folsom guards, psychologists and others of ignoring her pleas for help.
San Francisco’s First District Court of Appeal set a precedent for California in November by ruling (.pdf) that there is a special relationship between jailers and inmates that imposes a duty of care on the former.
“Prisoners are vulnerable. And dependent,” Justice James Richman wrote. “Moreover, the relationship between [the two] is protective by nature.”
Prisons: ‘We don’t consider transgender issues. Except, we do.’ After the jump.
Michele Kane, a public information officer for the Department of Corrections, wasn’t sure what the immediate impact of the court’s denial might be.But she said it probably wouldn’t change the agency’s mission.
“Our primary concern is to provide a safe and secure environment for all inmates,” she said today. “CDC considers numerous factors when considering inmate placement. Being transgender doesn’t necessarily warrant a special housing assignment.”
Among the factors taken into account, Kane said, are a person’s mental health, medical needs and safety concerns. “And that includes transgender inmates.”
Giraldo’s attorney, Gregory Walston of San Francisco, didn’t return a call.
— Mike McKee