In Scotland, 12 transgender prisoners convicted of violence or sexual crimes have been moved into women’s jails in the past 18 months, according to a new report.
One of the prisoners had gender reassignment surgery while the other eleven simply self-identified as female, The Times reported based on figures released under Freedom of Information laws.
The new figures come as a review by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) into the country’s transgender prison policy could result in an end to the practice of transitioning male inmates who request a move to female housing. Those who oppose the prison’s current policy, which allows prisoners to self-identify without the need for a gender recognition certificate, say it is not legal and is traumatizing for female prisoners, many of whom have trauma from having experienced violence at the hands of men.
The former Warden of Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling, Scotland spoke out against moving transgender inmates to female housing.
“My experience is that it is always an issue to have trans women in with female prisoners and you have to think beyond the obvious which is physical or sexual threat, which is sometimes an issue, to the very fact of the presence of male-bodied prisoners among vulnerable women causes them distress and consternation,” former warden Rhona Hotchkiss told the paper.
SPS says the management of the risks involved in such requests is done on an individual basis.
“All cases are treated on an individual basis and are risk-assessed through a multi-disciplinary case conference, transgender case conference supported by transgender policy,” a spokesperson for the prison service told The Times.
“Any decisions about the location of transgender prisoners are only made after an individual risk assessment has taken place. This process considers the risks potentially presented both to and by the individuals,” the spokesperson added.
The statement continued: “We take very seriously our duty of care towards all in our custody. We also undertake regular prison surveys, which includes a focus on the experience and needs of the people in our care — this is an important part of the SPS’ evidence base for policy.”
As the review is carried out, prison leaders say they will consult with advocates, female inmates, prison officers and the general public in response to criticism that they failed to consult these groups when the original policy was put in place in 2014. At that time, the SPS spoke only with transgender activists as it worked to improve the “working and living environment by ensuring it is free of any transphobic and homophobic behaviour.”
The SPS spokesman told The Times that “one of the groups we will be particularly keen to consult is the female prison population, who have not been specifically consulted about this before.”
“The need for wider consultations has been recognised and the planned consultation will provide an opportunity for a wide range of groups to have input,” the spokesman added.