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Irish Prison Service ‘drafting policy for transgender prisoners’

The Irish Prison Service has confirmed that it is in the process of drafting a policy for the management of transgender inmates – as Britain yesterday officially introduced new rules banning trans inmates who ‘pose a risk’ to women from female prisons. The policy for Irish prisons is expected to be finalised shortly – but no date has been confirmed.

Transgender inmates who retain male genitalia, or have been convicted of violence or sexual assault will be banned from female prisons in England and Wales under new rules introduced on Monday.

The changes come after the Justice Secretary announced plans to reform Britain’s policy on the allocation of transgender prisoners back in October.

The new rules were finalised just weeks after former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon found herself at the centre of a storm over transgender double rapist Isla Bryson, who was sent to a female-only prison in Scotland, until immense public backlash forced a u-turn.

Speaking to Gript, a spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service confirmed: “The Irish Prison Service is currently drafting a policy for the management of transgender prisoners, which is expected to be finalised shortly”.

The Prison Service confirmed that there are currently two transgender inmates in a women’s prison in Limerick. It said that both individuals hold a Gender Recognition Certificate – meaning they are legally female.

A spokesperson clarified that the court decides where the prisoner goes, and in these cases, is working off the basis that these prisoners are legally female.

In the UK, the new laws will however apply regardless of whether the individual holds a gender recognition certificate through which biological gender can legally be altered.

We asked whether transgender individuals in Irish prisons retained male genitalia, or if they had been convicted of violent or sexual offences, however the Prison Service could not provide this information due to the risk of making such individuals readily identifiable.

In a statement sent to Gript, The Irish Prison Service explained that:

“Where a court makes an order committing a person to a prison, the Irish Prison Service must accept that person into custody in whichever prison is specified by the court. All prisoners committed are accommodated in accordance with their legal gender.

“On arrival in prison, all prisoners are brought to the reception/committal unit of the prison, where there is an opportunity to provide details as part of the committal interview process.

“The assessment of the prisoner’s needs may require a Prison Governor to consider the biological gender, legal gender, gender identity, transgender, gender expression, sexual orientation or gender recognition legislation”.

The Irish Prison Service went on to confirm that all the risks posed to the prisoner and to others will be considered, and a recommendation will be made on the appropriate placement within the prison system:

“The Governor will also consider the risks posed including any risk to the prisoner themselves and any level of risk to other prisoners,” the statement read, adding:

“This risk assessment will determine the regime necessary to ensure the safety of all prisoners and may include the accommodation of the prisoner on a restricted regime under Rule 63 of the Prison Rules.

“The Governor may also make a recommendation on the appropriate placement within the prison system, taking into consideration good order, security and operational issues, protection issues, available accommodation and the healthcare and other needs of the prisoner as well as the safety and security of other prisoners and staff”.

Campaign groups including Women’s Space Ireland and The Countess have long highlighted what they perceive as a lack of debate around the impact of the 2015 Gender Recognition Act. The legislation means that biological men can now self-identify as women (and women as men) with the cert replacing the original birth certificate – replacing the legal recording of their sex at birth with their preferred sex.

A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service confirmed that concerns and interest have been expressed regarding the situation in Irish women’s prisons.

In Scotland last month, public outcry prompted a u-turn on a decision to allow a male-born rapist, Isla Bryson, to be housed in a women’s prison. Meanwhile, Britain’s decision to place male-born prisoners who ‘pose a risk’ to women in male-only jails has been welcomed by women’s groups and deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who described the new measures as “sensible”.

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