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 today.
The changes come after the Justice Secretary announced plans to reform Britain’s policy on the allocation of transgender prisoners back in October.
The changes to the UK government’s transgender policy framework comes 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.
Bryson, previously named as Adam Graham, was found guilt of raping two women in 2016 and 2019 before he started identifying as a female. He appeared in court as a woman despite not fully transitioning.
The row has exposed a growing sense of concern about the potential dangers posed by biological males in women’s jails in Britain, as it was revealed there were a total of 230 trans prisoners in England and Wales in the year to last March.
More than 90 per cent of trans prisoners in the UK are transgender women housed in men’s prisons according to the UK government, and most do not request a move to a women’s prison. There is also currently no obligation to move transgender prisoners according to their wishes. Trans women who do not hold a Gender Recognition Certificate are initially sent to a male prison as a matter of course in England and Wales.
The Ministry of Justice in Britain announced it was making the changes, which will come into force today, and will apply to transgender women guilty of violent or sexual offences, as well as transgender women with male genitals.
The new rules will cover all trans women with male genitalia, and will apply regardless of whether transgender prisoners hold a gender recognition certificate. In addition, transgender women convicted of sexual assaults as well as those jailed for violence, will no longer be held in mainstream women’s prisons.
Offences that fall into this category will include attempted murder, murder, assault with intent to cause serious harm or with injury, harming a child, endangering life, and harassment.
Commenting on the tightening of rules, the Ministry of Justice said that exemptions would only be made in ‘exceptional’ cases, and would have to have sign-off by Ministers.
Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Ministry Dominic Raab said that the shift was a matter of safety.
“Safety has to come first in our prisons,” he said, “And this new policy sets out a clear, common-sense approach to the housing of transgender prisoners.
“With these sensible new measures in place, transgender offenders who have committed sexual or violent crimes or retain male genitalia will not serve their sentence in a women’s prison, unless explicitly approved at the highest level.”
Following the storm of controversy over the Isla Bryson case, a YouGov survey from last month revealed that two-thirds of Brits agreed that trans ‘offenders like Isla Bryson’ should be in men’s prisons, with the same proportion of Scots (59%) agreeing.
Just 15 per cent polled said trans offenders should be sent to women’s prisons, while the rest of respondents said they were unsure. Bryson was initially sent to Cornton Vale in Stirling, a women’s prison, after being found guilty of two counts of rape.
According to Ministry of Justice figures for March 2022, six transgender women were in women’s prisons in Britain.
In Ireland, two male-born prisoners serving time for sexual offences are housed in an Irish women’s jail. The disclosure was recently made by acting Justice Minister Simon Harris, responding to a Dail question from Peadar Toibin, leader of Aontu. Both inmates are legally recognised as female under the Gender Recognition Act of 2015 by the Irish Prison Service.
It is believed that the Irish Prison Service is currently drafting a policy for the management of transgender prisoners here.
Earlier this month, the Minister stated: “I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that there are two prisoners known to the Irish Prison Service to be born male are being detained in a female prison for sexual offences.
“The Prison Service is responsible for the safe and secure custody of all persons held in prison.
“Where a court makes an order committing a person to a prison the Prison Service must accept that person into custody in whichever prison is specified by the court.
“While all prisoners committed are accommodated in accordance with their legal gender and having regard to their safety and the safety of the wider prison population, it should be noted that Irish prisoners are not legally defined as ‘male’ or ‘female’.”
Gript has contacted the Irish Prison Service to ascertain if a review of the management of transgender prisoners is underway, and whether similar changes will be made in Ireland regarding the housing of trans prisoners who still retain male genitalia, or have been convicted of violence or sexual assault.
In relation to transgender women currently in the women’s prisons in England and Wales, there will be a thorough assessment of individuals – both the risks to them and any risks they pose to others – before a move is considered to move them to a male prison. Transgender women who cannot be held safely in either the male or female estate can be held in a specialist unit, the UK Government has said.