Transitioning prisoners and the Prison Service

It seems I may have been semi-gazumped on my own Freedom Of Information requests – yesterday, both The Sun and the Daily Mail published stories about Trans prisoners. As with much published by those papers, it’s not news as the policy has been around in draft form for a couple of years. (PDF link)

I should point out that the guidelines are described by the Ministry of Justice as a “historical” document rather than one that reflects current policy. However, I understand that the document is still available to prison management and does relate fairly closely to what actually happens at the moment. From the point of view of a transitioning prisoner, it is quite problematic in a number of ways.

Firstly, you had better hope you do not get locked up on remand while in the early stages of working things out but before getting referred to a consultant. Section 4.1 states that before you get as far as a trial, they will not generally even consider any requests for medical intervention. Certainly for larger cases, you can end up on remand for months and that is a long, long time for someone suffering from acute gender dysphoria. Combined with the pressure of prison and a court case, I struggle to think that anyone could survive that.

Secondly, the rules for the prison you are located (section 9.1) state that the default assumption is that you will be held in the prison related to birth gender until you are either post-operative or have a GRC. There’s the obvious Catch-22 here that someone needs to pass the “real life test” before surgery or a GRC, which one can’t do while still in the wrong prison. Even apart from that, being in the wrong prison is clearly going to be very stressful. It was ruled in 2009 (In AB vs. the Secretary of State for Justice) that this was inappropriate, even before the Equalities Act 2010 came into force although it’s possible the EA2010 has created new loopholes. Certainly in the recent case of Nina, we’ve seen someone inappropriately put in a male prison despite being fully transitioned.

And there is some very uninformed discussion in section 9.2 about the “risk” of putting a transwoman into a female prison, particularly if they have committed sex crimes and/or are pre-op. This is entirely backwards, as the effects of hormones (Just HRT, but particularly so for anti-androgens) is to reduce sex drive. Indeed, in some countries they have actually been used to “treat” sex offenders to reduce the risk of re-offending. Rather, there is an increased risk of a transwoman being attacked as she will be physically weaker than much of the rest of the population. Conversely, transmen will be being given hormones that will boost sexual and violent urges and make them stronger and would thus seem to pose a greater risk to the population in a female prison if they have been convicted of crimes of a violent or sexual nature, but this is not discussed.

As usual, it is a case of transmen invisibility coupled with the usual cisgendered fear of “men” getting in amongst the women. Straight, cisgendered males seem to struggle – even if they have the best of intentions – with the idea that someone might not be doing this for sexual reasons.

The new plan is apparently “in development” and should be implemented, if it is approved, “early next year”. There does not appear to be any opportunity for Trans groups to have any input into the draft document before it comes into force, something I intend to raise with the Ministry of Justice.


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