Last week a female prisoner launched a court bid to ban transgender prisoners from all female prisons in the UK.

The female in question was sexually assaulted at HMP Downview, by a transgender inmate who was convicted of violent and sexual offences as a male, and had undergone reassignment surgery, so was now classed as a female within the justice system.

What is the current policy?

A report in 2019 showed that 1 in 50 inmates across the UK prison system identify as transgender.

Government policy, at this moment in time, allows all men who have been awarded a gender recognition certificate to be housed in female prisons. A male does not need to have had gender reassignment surgery to be awarded a gender recognition certificate, and transgender inmates without a certificate can still apply to be placed in a woman’s only prison.

HMP Downview took a step forward in creating the first transgender unit within the prison in 2019, however this has seen mixed reviews due to the separation and exclusion of the transgender community.

There have been several news stories surrounding attacks by transgender inmates throughout the UK, but this isn’t completely one sided. In May this year it was reported that in the previous 12 months 11 transgender inmates were assaulted by male prisoners across the prison estate.

What change is being pushed forward?

The claimant is supported by the ‘Keep Prisons Single Sex’ campaign who are an anti trans group, who insist that no transgender inmates should be kept in female prisons, and is the first ever case to challenge the current Prison Service policy of mixing transgender inmates with the rest of the community within a same sex prison.

The ‘Keep Prisons Single Sex’ movement state on their website that

“Women need single-sex spaces for reasons of safety, dignity and privacy.  Women in prison are no exception.  Women in prison are known to be a highly vulnerable group.  Many have experienced violence and sexual assault from the men in their lives.  It is accepted that female offenders make the best progress in a women-only setting.  We believe that women in prison are entitled to a prison free of male offenders. 
We believe in the importance of accurate data collection and record keeping.  We believe that when a male is arrested, commits a crime or is imprisoned, he should be officially recorded as male.”

The case will argue that there is a breach in equality law, but will focus on those transgender inmates who have been convicted of sexual or violent crimes, so not every transgender inmate within the prison system will be excluded.

What are your thoughts?

Is this a step backwards for the UK as a whole? Should transgender inmates be given the same rights as every other UK prison? Or should the safety of non-transgender inmates come first?

Sexual assault is wrong, no matter what gender an offender identifies as, is it really essential to make this differentiation due to gender alone?

Are separate units, similar to what HMP Downview have created, the way forward? Or does that drive a wedge between transgender inmates and their integration with the rest of the prison? Potentially hindering reform and access to additional education and help.

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