WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) released the first episode in its exclusive documentary series, Cruel & Unusual Punishment: The Male Takeover of Female Prisons. The series exposes the fallout of policies that allow male offenders—including convicted sex offenders—to declare themselves “women” and be housed with females, as told by female inmates who detail the untold, grim realities about what’s been happening to female inmates behind closed doors. 

The first episode in the series tells the story of Jennifer Barela, a woman formerly incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) for attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and gang enhancements. Eleven years after Jennifer started serving time in prison, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law State Senate Bill 132 – legislation that opened the door for male prisoners to transfer into women’s prisons. In 2023, Jennifer was forced without her consent to live in a small cell with a male inmate, placing her and other female inmates in what Jennifer describes as a “very traumatic” position.  


After serving 15 years behind bars, Barela was released in 2023 and is now on parole. By sharing her experience of being forced to share a living space with a man under California’s new policy, Barela fears retribution—even losing her parole. However, Barela feels obligated to be a voice for the women she left behind.

“A lot of ladies there would love to speak out, but there comes retaliation, fear of the men, physical harm, fear of the lawyers, fear of losing their day to come home,” Jennifer says in the documentary. “What little rights that we did have as inmates have been diminished with the ‘trans men’ who’ve come in. And I just hope to give the women back some sort of voice.”

IWF’s Storytelling Director and co-producer of the series, Kelsey Bolar, said, “Jennifer’s story is one of many that IWF will tell so the public can finally understand the suffering that female inmates have endured as a result of policies that prioritize the feelings of men over the safety and well-being of women. The trauma and abuse Jennifer faced by being forced to share her intimate living space with violent, predatory men, is nothing short of cruel and unusual punishment. Jennifer is brave and courageous for telling her story, which will go a long way in the fight to protect female inmates.”

IWF’s Storytelling Manager and co-producer of the series, Andrea Mew, said, “In today’s hypervigilant cancel culture, it’s really not easy for everyday people to speak freely about uber-politicized issues such as gender ideology. For incarcerated women, or those who were just granted parole, there are exponentially higher risks involved with standing up for biological truth – legally, physically, and emotionally. It takes immense courage to come on camera, like Jennifer did, and expose how California’s woke prison policies are prioritizing predators over the physical and mental safety of women.” 

Watch Jennifer’s story HERE.

In the Cruel & Unusual Punishment mini series, IWF brings voices to light who are coming forward to share the grim, tough-to-swallow details about what happens when women’s rights no longer exist within a women’s prison. Each episode, varying from 5 to 10 minutes in length, will be released individually over the coming weeks.

Today, on Friday, March 1, Kelsey Bolar and Amie Ichikawa who is an IWF ambassador, formerly incarcerated, and a future subject of the series, will join The Megyn Kelly Show for an exclusive interview on Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Male Takeover of Female Prisons. This interview will air during the 1:00 p.m. ET hour on SiriusXM Triumph Channel 111 and then will be published as a podcast episode and on YouTube at 5:00 p.m. ET.


As more states allow biological men who identify as women into women’s prisons, few are aware of the ugly fallout. Women with histories of trauma and domestic abuse are forced to share their most private and intimate spaces with intact males – many of whom are violent, sexual predators serving time for heinous crimes.

Allowing male offenders to reside in women’s prisons is dangerous and unfair. Put simply, it’s cruel and unusual punishment. These stories stand as a testament to why biological sex matters, especially in institutional settings. Incarcerated women need and DESERVE female-only spaces. Anything less is a violation of their most basic human rights.

The eradication of single-sex prisons is harming female inmates.

Watch the series trailer HERE

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Independent Women’s Forum is dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities.