Inmates at California’s largest women’s prison say a former transgender activist who was convicted of murdering a lesbian couple and their son has been making life miserable since his transfer to their housing unit.
Dana Rivers shares a cell with several female inmates at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, where he was incarcerated last month. Women in Rivers’s housing unit say he ogles them, speaks demeaningly to them, and demands they push him around in his wheelchair.
"Rivers has been a problem since he rolled in the door," one inmate said in a message reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. "He is trying to control the women saying he gets to bypass everything—special treatment."
California is one of several U.S. states, along with Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts, that have enacted laws in recent years presumptively incarcerating criminals based on their gender identity rather than their sex. Other states have encouraged, if not mandated, the practice even as a growing number of female inmates have spoken out to say the men make them feel unsafe and, in some cases, harass or assault them.
President Joe Biden last year ordered federal prisons to prioritize transgender inmates’ "health and safety" when making housing decisions.
"I felt someone watching me"
In a phone interview from Central California Women's Facility, Tomiekia Johnson said that one of her fellow inmates was recently unnerved to catch Rivers leering at her.
"She felt him looking at her, she said, ‘I felt someone watching me, and there he was, staring at my butt,’" Johnson said.
Johnson lost her job at the prison after she filed a complaint in early 2021 against the California law that allows men to be incarcerated with women based on gender identity, even if they present as men and have male genitalia. Then, last month, Rivers was moved into her housing unit.
"I think it’s a slap in the face, because as much as they know I’ve been vocal about being housed with predators, and how much they target me, and how much it’s a known fact that they harass me and provoke me, for them to put him in the building with me is beyond negligent," Johnson said. "I feel betrayed by the prison for doing this."
Amie Ichikawa, the founder of Women II Women, monitors the condition of incarcerated women in California, who in legal documents and conversations describe how they are constantly on edge since the state began transferring men into their prisons. Ichikawa showed the Free Beacon messages she received from female inmates at Central California Women’s Facility complaining about Rivers’s behavior. Some of the women asked that their names not be printed for fear of retaliation.
"Overall, the whole vibe is, how are we supposed to rehabilitate and recover from these traumas when we’re housed with the same kind of people we were trying to get away from?" said Ichikawa, herself a former inmate at the prison.
"You thought prison would at least allow you to leave that behind while you work on yourself—meaning [leave behind] domestic abusers and woman beaters."
A 2017 study found that up to 86 percent of incarcerated women enter prison as victims of sexual violence.
Rivers could not immediately be reached for comment, and his attorney declined to discuss the case.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it could not comment on the female inmates' allegations, citing privacy laws and state policy.
"CDCR is committed to providing a safe, humane, respectful, and rehabilitative environment for all incarcerated people, including the transgender, non-binary, and intersex community, and is working to implement the law," a spokeswoman said in a statement.
"Very chauvinistic, demeaning to women, and prideful about it"
Rivers, formerly known as David Warfield, became a high-profile transgender activist after he was fired from a high school teaching post in 1999 for discussing with students his plans to get a sex change, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. He sued the school and received a $150,000 settlement, which helped pay for his sex-change operation.
Years later, as a member of an all-female biker gang called the Deviants MC, Rivers reportedly stalked and threatened Charlotte Reed, a lesbian who had left the gang. In November, he was convicted of murdering Reed, her wife, and their 19-year-old son. Rivers stabbed Reed in the face and neck some 28 times.
An inmate at the Alameda County Santa Rita Jail, where Rivers was held before being sentenced to state prison, told Ichikawa that he acted frail and pressured female inmates to push him in the wheelchair he used at the trial. But the inmate said Rivers was seen performing strenuous exercises, including "jump squats off a stool." She described Rivers as "very chauvinistic, demeaning to women, and prideful about it."
After his transfer to Central California Women’s Facility, Rivers was initially housed in a cell with another transgender killer, Shiloh Quine, who in 2015 was the first male inmate to receive a state-funded sex change. Other men incarcerated at the prison include a convicted murderer of two babies, a rapist who tortured his mother-daughter victims with electric shocks, and a man who strangled his wife when she tried to leave him and said he wants both a penis and a vagina.
In total, 52 male inmates have been moved to women’s prisons in California so far. Many of the men do not even attempt to present as women.
According to Central California Women’s Facility documents from 2022 obtained by the Free Beacon, one-third of the 287 men who sought entry to California’s women’s prisons based on claimed transgender identity were registered sex offenders.