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California law to ban male guard pat-downs of female inmates

August 21, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Male prison guards in California will be prohibited from pat-down searching of incarcerated women and viewing them while they are not fully dressed under a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown announced he signed the bill Monday. It will take effect in 2019.

The measure, AB2550, bans male guards from entering areas such as bathrooms where women are undressed. The bill authored by San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber contains exceptions for emergencies when female guards aren’t available. It also permits male guards to pat down search female inmates at risk of escaping or harming themselves or others when a female officer is not available.

The measure also requires prison staff of the opposite sex to announce their presence when they enter a housing unit.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will have to adjust its policies to comply with a requirement in the law that requires reporting when male officers pat down search incarcerated women or enter prohibited areas, department spokeswoman Vicky Waters said. But for the most part, the new law codifies the department’s existing practices, Waters said.

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian West elevated the bill’s profile by tweeting her support for it in July, using the hashtag #DignityForIncarceratedWomen. The celebrity has drawn headlines recently for her advocacy on criminal justice issues.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West successfully lobbied President Donald Trump to commute the sentence of a 63-year-old woman serving a life sentence for drug offenses. The woman, Alice Marie Johnson, served more than 20 years in federal prison after she was convicted in 1996 on eight criminal counts related to a Memphis, Tennessee-based cocaine trafficking operation.

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