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UK: Trans women moved to men’s prisons as current policy is set to change

UK: Trans women moved to men’s prisons as current policy is set to change

Vikki Thompson was found dead in a male prison

Some trans women have been moved to men’s prisons, the Ministry of Justice has announced today (11 February).

The Ministry of Justice has announced plans that will scrap its trans-inclusive policy.

Justice Minister Ed Argar said ‘new guidelines’ would be announced soon.

An alleged trans woman, Karen White, recently sexually assaulted two prisoners in a women’s prison.

Trans women moved to men’s prisons

He said he was taking the matter ‘very seriously’.

He said: ‘New guidelines will be published shortly, to ensure that [the policy] continues to strike the right balance between ensuring that all female prisoners are kept safe [and] that transgender prisoners have their rights respected.’

In a statement from the Ministry of Justice, a spokesperson said: ‘The management of transgender prisoners, who all have different circumstances and pose very different levels of risk, is a highly sensitive issue which poses unique and complex challenges.

‘We are carefully reviewing our policy in this area so that it strikes the right balance between protecting transgender prisoners and their rights, and the safety and wellbeing of all prisoners, including some extremely vulnerable women.

‘We saw in the Karen White case the severe consequences of getting this balance wrong, and as a result of that case we made the difficult decision to move a small number of transgender women back into the male estate where the risk they pose can be more safely managed.

Policy set to change

‘Our review is ongoing and no final decisions have been made. The safety of all prisoners is our absolute priority and we are clear that all offenders must be managed sensitively and in line with the law.’

Current policy states trans prisoners remanded into custody should be located according to their “legally recognized gender unless there are exceptional circumstances”.

The MoJ statement added: ‘Following the Karen White case, we carried out a rapid assessment that looked into the location of all transgender offenders in the prison estate.

‘As a result of this, a small number of prisoners were relocated to male prisons.’

Trans women have died in men’s prisons

There have been several cases of trans women dying in British men’s prisons.

Jenny Swift, in 2017, was found dead at HMP Doncaster, South Yorkshire. She was denied hormone medication after taking it for three years, an act that can trigger heart problems, depression and suicidal ideation.

A trans woman who was found dead in a male prison said she would leave ‘in a box’, an inquest has heard.

Vikki Thompson died in HMP Leeds in November 2015. Just 21, she told her partner she would ‘leave in a box’.

And also in 2015, 38-year-old Joanne Latham died by suicide in Woodhill prison. She was found hanging by a prison officer.

The Ministry of Justice says there are now 139 transgender prisoners in England and Wales, double the number in 2016.