Trans rapists are a danger in women’s jails by Janice Turner in the Times 08.09.28
The original article is here.
The prison authorities knew a great deal about Karen White. That under her birth name Stephen Wood she’d served 18 months for gross indecency against a child; that she was on remand for three rapes also committed as a man; that, although she wore dresses and make-up, she’d retained male genitalia. Yet still they put her in a women’s jail.
I’d love to meet those who signed off this decision. What would they say to the four women who, within days of her transfer to New Hall prison in West Yorkshire, White had sexually assaulted? Confining a rapist in a women’s prison, among vulnerable inmates including rape victims, is like locking a fox in a henhouse. Yet they merely followed government guidelines “that prisoners should generally be housed in the estate that matches their expressed gender”.
On Thursday, after White admitted the three rapes and two of the prison assaults — one in which “her [sic] penis was sticking out of the top of her trousers” — the Ministry of Justice apologised, saying it failed to take into account her offending history. But her crimes were right there on file. Rather, the case illustrates a principle now hard-baked into schools, prisons and across the public sector: that women’s physical safety is less important than “gender expression”.
“It never happens,” women were told when they worried that losing sex-segregated private spaces might allow attacks by predatory men. Yet, as FoI requests by The Sunday Times last week showed, 90 per cent of sexual assaults in leisure centres are committed in gender-neutral changing rooms and only a tenth in single-sex facilities. It happens.
“It never happens,” was the mindset of Maria Miller’s women and equalities committee report on trans issues which ignored women’s groups concerned about self-ID and an important submission from the British Association of Gender Identity Specialists. “It has been rather naively suggested that nobody would seek to pretend transsexual status in prison,” it read. “There are, to those of us who actually interview the prisoners, very many reasons why people might pretend this.” Including trips out of prison or a belief they would be favoured for parole. But there was “a plethora of prison intelligence suggesting that the driving force was a desire to make subsequent sexual offending very much easier” by being transferred to the women’s estate.
This is not a piffling problem. The BBC reality check team confirmed that 60 (48 per cent) of the 125 trans prisoners in jails are sex offenders. That compares with 19 per cent in the prison population overall. Yet, since women commit only 2 per cent of sex crimes, out of 8,000 women prisoners there are only 125 sex offenders. So if the 60 trans sex offenders were housed according to gender identity, it would create a sea change in women’s prisons. There would be 50 per cent more sex offenders; they’d be male bodied, physically stronger and have committed far more serious crimes, including 27 rapes, 13 sexual assaults and seven charges of sex with a child.
Many within the service are worried. The president of the Prison Governors Association, Andrea Albutt, noted “women feeling very threatened by transgender prisoners’ presence”, while Frances Crook, of the Howard League penal reform charity, cautioned that “some men with a history of extreme violence and sexual violence against women have found a new way of exercising aggression towards women”.
There is a cavalier misogyny about not protecting women from sex offenders. We saw it in magistrates repeatedly bailing the serial rapist Carl Hartley, allowing him to rape again and again. Or in the parole board’s blithe attempt to release John Worboys, the taxi-driver rapist, after he had served only ten years of an indeterminate sentence, until this was reversed following an outcry.
We see it too in liberal campaigns for violent trans criminals to live among women. I’m often lectured by left-wing men that since “trans women are women”, if Ian Huntley, as is rumoured, transitions he must be treated as female. You feminists, say the right-on bros, must expand your definition of women to include rapists. I read an Observer report comparing the prisoner Marie Dean, then on hunger strike in HMP Preston, to Bobby Sands. That’s Marie Dean aka Gary Dean Marie, described by police as “dangerous and prolific”, who committed 30 aggravated burglaries, breaking into teenage girls’ bedrooms and masturbating. Yes, welcome to lady jail!
I hope Karen White’s victims sue the prison service. Biological sex is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act but, with no impact assessment, this criteria was overridden by a rapist’s gender feelings. Yet the worst thing about this case, apart from the victims’ suffering, is the appalling effect upon decent, quiet-living trans people. Many who contact me are aghast at how an extreme activist agenda creates policy facilitating crimes like White’s and ends up tainting them.
It is time, given the growing number of transitioning male prisoners, for policy to evolve. Besides, if self-ID is introduced after the Gender Recognition Act review, it will be easier for a trans prisoner to become legally male and thus have an almost automatic right to transfer. David Gauke, the justice secretary, should draft new rules: that no male-born criminal who has committed a violent or sexual crime against women, nor one who retains male genitalia, should ever live in the female estate. Or maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the physical safety of women and the desire for trans prisoners to affirm their gender identity are irreconcilable and to create a bespoke trans prison unit. Because no fox has a right to live in the henhouse, even if he identifies as a hen.