Prison Guard Resigns After ‘Immoral, Dangerous’ Trans Policies 

Produced by: Kelsey Bolar & Andrea Mew

Written by: Kelsey Bolar

Hector Bravo Ferrel was at the peak of his career when he resigned from his position inside the California prison system on December 1, 2022. Earning $157,000 a year as a correctional lieutenant inside a high-security men’s prison in southern San Diego, Ferrel built a comfortable life.

“The plan was to do a full career, lengthy career, and retire and collect a pension,” Ferrel told Independent Women’s Forum. “However, when things became dangerous, when people’s lives were being affected and jeopardized…you put the troop’s safety first and foremost.”

Ferrel, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, began his career with the California Department of Corrections in 2006. Over his 16 years supervising some of the state’s most dangerous criminals, Ferrel worked his way up from the rank of a correctional officer to a correctional lieutenant.

But one year after California began implementing Senate Bill 132 (SB 132), a law that allows incarcerated individuals who identify as transgender, “non-binary,” and “intersex” to request to be housed and searched in a manner consistent with their “gender identity,” Ferrel walked away from his stable, lucrative career.

“Some of them are in there for sex crimes,” Ferrel said. “That’s unethical, that’s immoral, that’s dangerous.”

Ferrel is one of the first whistleblowers from the correctional world to speak out about the effects of a new law that allows biological males to transfer into women-only prisons, and to be routinely searched, often fully nude, by female prison staff.

“Now you have females looking at the male body parts—and the inmates are demanding it,” Ferrel said.

Correctional staff are required to search inmates multiple times a day. “Every time an inmate goes to a visit, every time an inmate exits his cell to go to the Ad Seg [administrative segregation] yard, when they go work in a vocational trade, they get strip searched to and from,” Ferrel said. “Every time there is an incident and the inmate is placed in a holding cell, an unclothed body search is conducted per policy.”

In 2020, when Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 132 into law, Ferrel was working at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in southern San Diego, a maximum-security men’s prison that houses nearly 3,000 male inmates convicted of crimes including murder, rape, and lewd and lascivious acts with persons under 14.

“That’s when the males started, by the numbers, identifying themselves as females to the point where we were now giving them transgender identification cards so that they can purchase female products at the canteen such as mumus, makeup, bras, tampons,” he said.

As part of his job, Ferrel said he and his fellow correctional staff had to oversee and facilitate the transfer of males who identified as women or “non-binary” to female institutions.

“Oh, they were excited,” Ferrel said of the inmates’ response to the new law. “They were excited because California, the Department of Corrections, gave them a perfect storm to be able to exploit their sexual predatory behaviors.”

“They were like kids in the candy store,” he added, “because they knew they were going from a men’s prison to a female’s prison. And we would watch them take off in the bus.”

Ferrel, now 39, said he first learned of the new policy when an investigative service unit sergeant gave the whole prison staff a class on how they would be calling the inmates by their “preferred pronouns.”

“This was all news to us, and being in a prison is kind of like, are we really going to prioritize this right now when we got a lot of other stuff going on?” he said. This included regularly putting a stop to violence, including massive riots and attempted murders.

After his introduction to the new language that guards were now required to use, “it just went full throttle,” Ferrel said. “When the State of California Department of Corrections gave [inmates] the full authorization to do as they pleased, you had everybody jump on that program. A lot of non-authentic and a lot of manipulation of the system. Oh, it was obvious.”

As Ferrel watched more male inmates begin to identify as transgender, seemingly to gain access to the women’s prisons, his concern for the well-being of female inmates grew. 

“As we’re speaking right now, you have male inmates housed in female prisons and God knows what’s happening in those walls and in those cells,” he said. “I’m not talking about things in the past. I’m talking about what’s happening now, and this is why I left.”

In addition to the effects of SB 132, Ferrel said he witnessed a host of corruption, retaliation, and unethical behavior that led him to resign. He shares these experiences on his social media and YouTube pages, going by the moniker, That Prison Guard.

Correctional staff, Ferrel said, “know in their heart” that men demanding to be strip searched by female staff and transferring into women’s prisons is not right. “They reach out to me,” he said. “It doesn’t sit well.”

However, he said the hands of correctional officers are tied. “Their job is not to stop the individual from going into there… they’re simply there opening and unlocking gates,” Ferrel said. “He’s already been approved through the proper chains to let the wolf go into the chicken’s den.”

Ferrel is now speaking out because, for him, “it boils down to ethics, morals and values, honor, code, integrity, duty,” and “selfless service.” He said that after witnessing systematic negligence for at-risk populations, he wants people to put differences aside and make necessary changes to ensure that both inmates and individuals in the free world are safe.

“Prison is a microcosm of what’s actually happening in the world. It’s a smaller version,” he said. “I have a five-year-old daughter. I don’t want her to grow up in a world that’s currently backwards or upside down.”

While walking away from such a long and lucrative career was a gamble for his young family, thus far, Ferrel has no regrets. 

There is “an obligation to protect the ones in our custody,” he said. “They are inmates in our custody. And if you’re purposely putting a predator amongst prey, so to say, I don’t got to tell you what’s going to happen—you know what’s going to happen.”

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