Resigning In Protest: Whistleblower Exposes Corruption In California’s Prison System

The tipping point came in 2022 with the implementation of California State Senate Bill 132, also known as the Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act.

A view down "Broadway" the main corridor in the Alcatraz cellhouse. The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was a maximum security federal prison on Alcatraz Island. It operated from 1934 -1963 and housed some of the United States most notorious prisoners.
Alex Walker. Getty Images.

As a former correctional lieutenant at a high-security men’s prison in California, I came face-to-face with a moral dilemma that ultimately led me to resign. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I could no longer stand by and watch as corruption and injustice thrived within the very system I was sworn to uphold. 

The tipping point came in 2022 with the implementation of California State Senate Bill 132, also known as the Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act. This new law, which legalized “gender self-identification” in state prisons, was not only misguided, but also fundamentally flawed in its execution.

I was initially hopeful that the new policy would provide necessary protections and accommodations for inmates who identified as transgender. However, what I witnessed was a system rife with negligence and disregard for both inmate safety and the well-being of correctional staff.

One of the most concerning aspects of this policy was the lack of proper protocols for housing male inmates who identify as women. 

Under the new law, a male inmate can simply tell officers, “Call me Susie today.” If officers don’t call that inmate “Susie,” the inmate can have officers written up. Inmates can then demand to be moved to a women’s institution, and officers are required to start the paperwork. In a matter of days, that male inmate can be put on a bus headed for one of California’s two women’s prisons. It’s that easy. 

Instead of conducting thorough risk assessments and considering the safety of all inmates, decisions were made haphazardly, putting vulnerable individuals at risk. As a correctional lieutenant, I witnessed firsthand the chaos and violence that ensued when inmates were placed in inappropriate housing assignments.

At Centinela State Prison, where I worked for eight years, and at Richard J. Donovan State Prison, where I worked for another eight years, we housed serial rapists, serial child molesters, and murderers. This criminal behavior doesn’t stop when the men are put behind bars — it often continues inside prison walls.

In 2020 at Donovan, for example, two correctional officers and five staffers were attacked by four male inmates. I responded and saw the blood and prison knives on the floor. That very well could have been me.

Giving these criminals access to women’s prisons reminds me of one of the “Little Red Riding Hood” fairy tales, where a predatory wolf dresses up as a fragile, old lady with a little bonnet over his head. Just because he’s got granny’s clothes on, it doesn’t mean he’s anything like granny.

As a lieutenant, I witnessed a lot of men manipulate the new law, claiming to be transgender to cheat the system. In many cases, they wouldn’t even hide their plan from prison staffers including myself.

Screenshot: YouTube. Cruel & Unusual Punishment: Prison Guard Resigns After ‘Immoral, Dangerous’ Trans Policies (Ep. 3)

Screenshot: YouTube. Cruel & Unusual Punishment: Prison Guard Resigns After ‘Immoral, Dangerous’ Trans Policies (Ep. 3)

In one instance, there was a male housed inside the prison hospital. He was scheduled to have a “sex realignment surgery” in Beverly Hills, paid for with taxpayer money. While on patrol, I overheard him say, “When I come back, I’m going to prostitute myself on the yard. I’m going to make money.”

When he returned, this inmate faced complications from his surgery. He then turned around and sued the state, saying the state purposely gave him a faulty surgery.

The California Department of Corrections, as they always do, settled the case — with more taxpayer money. 

There was also a clear lack of training and education provided to correctional staff regarding transgender issues. Many of my colleagues were ill-equipped to handle the unique challenges presented by inmates who identified as transgender, leading to conflicts and misunderstandings that could have been avoided with proper guidance.

My female colleagues are also victims of the prison transgender policy. Under the law, a male inmate identifying as a woman can now pick and choose to have a female officer perform an unclothed body search on them. So now you have females forced to look at male body parts, and what do you know? The inmates are demanding it.

Correctional staff are required to search inmates multiple times a day. Every time an inmate goes on a visit, goes to work in a vocational trade, exits his cell to go to the administrative segregation yard — they get strip searched on their way and their way back. Every time there is an incident and the inmate is placed in a holding cell, an unclothed body search is conducted. It is inhumane to force female prison staff to strip search the bodies of biological males.

As a correctional lieutenant, I took an oath to uphold the law and ensure the safety and security of all individuals under my watch. However, less than a year into the implementation of this policy, I could no longer reconcile my values with the pervasive corruption and injustice I witnessed on a daily basis. After much deliberation, I made the difficult decision to resign.

At the time I resigned, I had a number of accolades and was making $157,000 a year. I had a mortgage, two vehicles, and a 5-year-old daughter to support. It was not easy going back to eating soups and sandwiches, but as a veteran who served in Iraq, I don’t need much to survive.

My resignation was not simply an act of defiance, but a statement against a broken system that prioritizes profits over people. California’s prison system is in dire need of reform, from top to bottom. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the rampant corruption and abuse that plague our correctional facilities.

It is imperative that we hold those responsible for perpetuating injustice and corruption accountable for their actions. This includes administrators and policymakers who have failed to enact meaningful change, and who have subjected female inmates to cruel and unusual punishment.

As I reflect on my time in the California prison system, I am reminded of the words of Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I could no longer remain silent in the face of such egregious wrongdoing. It is my hope that my resignation will serve as a wake-up call and spur much-needed action to reform our broken prison system. We owe it to the inmates, the staff, and society as a whole to do better.

* * *

Hector Bravo Ferrel is a recently retired correctional lieutenant from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, U.S. Army Combat Veteran, and YouTuber known as ‘That Prison Guard.’ He shared his story with the Independent Women’s Forum in the Cruel and Unusual Punishment series.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Resigning In Protest: Whistleblower Exposes Corruption In California’s Prison System