Specialist officers for transgender inmates The Times 29.07.19

The original article is here.

Every prison is to have a dedicated officer for transgender inmates under a revised policy to be introduced in the autumn.

The move is expected to lead to more prisoners coming forward to identify themselves as transgender because the officer will be a point of contact.

Officials have also listed in more detail the risks that must be considered when prison staff decide where to house transgender inmates to ensure the safety of vulnerable female prisoners.

The revised Ministry of Justice policy makes clear that an inmate’s physical strength, sexual behaviour and relationships are “critical” factors that must be taken into account. Previous guidance had not listed the critical factors that had to be considered in making assessments.

The revised policy follows the case Karen White, a transgender prisoner who sexually assaulted two female inmates while on remand in a women’s prison.

White, 52, had previously raped two other women but was incorrectly remanded to New Hall women’s prison in Yorkshire. She was born a boy and now identifies as a woman and was described by a judge as a “predator” who was a danger to women and children. White is now serving a life sentence for assaulting the female prisoners.

Each dedicated officer will receive training in prison policy on dealing with transgender prisoners and will be expected to provide help and advice to inmates.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The care and management of transgender prisoners poses unique and complex challenges. That is why we have carefully revised our policy to strike an appropriate balance between protecting transgender prisoners and their rights, as set out in law, and ensuring the safety of other prisoners, including some extremely vulnerable women.

“We have also strengthened safeguards by introducing new training for prison staff, improving the risk assessment process and requiring every prison to have a dedicated senior officer responsible for transgender offenders.”

Official figures published in November said there were 139 transgender prisoners in 44 of 124 prisons in England and Wales. Of the 42 in women’s jails, 22 were men who identified as female, while in male prisons 92 of the 97 were men identifying as women.

The figure is thought to be an underestimate of the actual number. A prison inspectorate survey of 5,133 adult male prisoners found that 2 per cent self-identified as transgender which extrapolated across jails would mean about 1,500.

Transgender prisoners are entitled to shower alone, have separate cells and can apply to switch between male and female prisons.

The revised guidance sets out for the first time in detail “critical factors” that must be considered when prison transgender case boards and complex case boards look at where prisoners should be housed.

These include an individual’s offending history, anatomy including physical strength and genitalia, sexual behaviour and relationships, past behaviour in custody and evidence of a threat towards others.

Boards must also take into account the personal vulnerabilities of a transgender prisoner including their mental health, vulnerability if they are in a male prison, risk of suicide and history of being attacked or bullied, it adds.

Andrea Albutt, president of the Prison Governors Association, welcomed the revised policy adding that it provided absolute clarity about what had to be done to care and manage transgender prisoners.

“For the policy to actually state what has to be taken into consideration in deciding where a prisoner is held is a positive thing. It should prevent another Karen White incident from taking place,” she said. “It has to take into account not just the needs of transgender prisoners but absolutely everything including the safety of women among whom transgender prisoners might be living”.