Press Release

CA Assembly Committee OK’s Sen. Skinner’s Bill to Address Sexual Assault in CA Prisons

The Assembly Public Safety Committee approved SB 898, new legislation by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, that would address the problem of guards sexually assaulting incarcerated people in California prisons and jails.

The introduction of SB 898 is in response to ongoing sexual abuse by prison staff at California women’s prisons. Last year, prison guard Gregory Rodriguez was charged with raping and sexual assaulting nearly two dozen women incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. And earlier this year, the federal women’s prison in Dublin, which was nicknamed the “rape club” because of pervasive assaults on women there, was closed.

Over the past year, the California Legislative Women’s Caucus (LWC), of which Sen. Skinner is chair, has shined a spotlight on sexual misconduct by prison staff and the retaliation against incarcerated survivors.

“No person, no matter what they did to be sentenced to prison or jail, should be forced to endure the brutal crime of rape or sexual assault — and then be punished for reporting it,” Sen. Skinner said. “SB 898 will provide whistleblower protections for survivors who have the courage to come forward, and will allow for a reduction in prison time for incarcerated individuals who were proven to have suffered from such assaults.”

The LWC has also partnered with Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition, an Oakland-based nonprofit with over 5,000 formerly and currently incarcerated and systems-impacted members, and other survivor groups and advocates, to raise awareness about and address the pervasive problem of staff sexual misconduct in state carceral facilities.

"The most important thing we can do to protect women, girls, and gender-expansive youth who are assaulted while incarcerated is to remove them from the correctional facilities where staff members are able to abuse them,” said Amika Mota, executive director of the Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition. “I applaud Senator Skinner for her longstanding commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our communities and championing this important legislation, which represents a critical opportunity to address the rampant sexual violence and misconduct that goes unchecked in California’s jails and prisons. The best way to protect people of all genders from abuse by prison staff is to keep them in their communities and prevent them from entering the prison population in the first place, but in this immediate moment of crisis, Senator Skinner's bill is a lifeline for survivors.”

Last August, the Legislative Women’s Caucus co-hosted a legislative briefing with Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition on sexual assault and harassment in California women’s prisons. The briefing, which included top officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), followed revelations that a single prison guard, Gregory Rodriguez, at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla had raped or sexually assaulted at least 22 women over many years. That guard is now facing 96 felony charges.

In addition, more than 120 women have sued CDCR alleging widespread sexual assault and harassment by prison staff at Chowchilla and at the California Institution for Women in Chino. In January of this year, members of the LWC toured Chowchilla to view the conditions and talk to incarcerated individuals.

Then in April, the Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin was shut down after seven correctional officers, including the former warden and the prison’s chaplain, were convicted in federal court and sentenced to prison for sexually abusing dozens of incarcerated women.

In Los Angeles County probation camps, there has also been widespread sexual abuse against hundreds, if not thousands, of girls, prompting California’s two U.S. Senators to call for the U.S. Department of Justice to intercede. Los Angeles County officials estimated that county taxpayers would need to pay approximately $3 billion resolving claims for sexual abuse perpetrated by officers against children in probation camps. 

SB 898 would help protect incarcerated people from sexual abuse by guards and staff and provide safeguards for whistleblowers by:

  • Extending the time allowed for all survivors of prison or jail staff sexual abuse to file civil complaints until after they have been released from custody.
  • Reducing the prison or jail sentence for victims of proven sexual abuse by staff by up to one year.
  • Providing special resentencing consideration for victims of proven staff sexual abuse.
  • Protecting whistleblowers from retaliation for 90 days after they report sexual abuse.
  • Requiring investigations of cases of retaliation within 72 hours of reporting.
  • Providing additional protections for whistleblowers who are victims of retaliation.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday evening approved SB 898 on a vote of 6-1. The bill now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.


Sen. Nancy Skinner represents the 9th Senate District and is chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus and the Senate Housing Committee.