Britain is still locking up trans women in men’s prisons despite saying they’ll stop.
And a long-awaited review of how trans prisoners has been finished but publication is being deliberately delayed until after the EU Referendum, Gay Star News has learned.
While the review has not been released yet, it is understood to address a number of key trans concerns. It could stop trans women being sent to men’s prisons and provide awareness training for the staff.
Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, highlighted the latest case of someone being put in the wrong prison.
He told Parliament: ‘A transgender constituent of mine who is being held in custody is having a very difficult time in a men’s prison.’
He went on: ‘Two transgender women died in men’s prisons at the back end of last year. We were promised a review. How close are we to some outcomes from that review?’
Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan MP replied: ‘The Government are firmly committed to ensuring the needs of transgender prisoners are fully met. The Ministry of Justice has carried out the review and it will be published shortly.’
The delay in publication is because of the referendum and a busy parliamentary agenda, we have learned from sources close to the process.
Helen Belcher, secretary of the Parliamentary Forum on Gender Identity and a GSN contributor, said: ‘It’s concerning that publication, let alone implementation of the well-publicised review is still outstanding three months after the review closed, especially as trans prisoners will still be going through the system.
‘It’s also concerning that, after five months, the government hasn’t responded to the Select Committee’s report on trans issues. The lack of action in both could easily be construed as kicking these important issues into the long grass.’
Lawyers with experience of representing transgender prisoners say prison practice ranges from good to horrendous.
They report instances of hormone treatment being withheld or delayed and trans women being body searched by male officers.
Officers deliberately use trans people’s names from before transition to humiliate them – these are called ‘dead names’.
Jane Ryan, of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, says prison guidelines distinguish between transgender persons with an official ‘gender recognition certificate’ and those without, even though the Equality Act doesn’t make that distinction.
She said officials can over-ride the guidelines but that requires a ‘case conference’. The guidelines don’t say when that should happen. The result is trans prisoners can be locked up in the wrong place for weeks or months until their case is reviewed.
A Prison Service spokesperson told GSN: ‘Our top priority is the welfare of those in our custody, and there are strict rules in place to ensure transgender prisoners are managed safely and in accordance with the law.
‘Any allegation that transgender prisoners are being treated in an improper way will always be fully investigated.
‘We are reviewing how transgender prisoners are treated in the Prison Service and will set out more detail in due course.’
They would not comment on why the review’s publication has been delayed. Meanwhile, they claim their current policy is compatible with the Equality Act.