Scotland’s policy on transgender prisoners sparks controversy

Transgender inmates with history of violence against women may still be placed in female jails

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has confirmed that transgender prisoners with a history of violence against women, including sexual offences, could still be allowed to serve their sentences in female jails under certain circumstances. This policy has been criticized by some campaigners and politicians as “unacceptable” and “dangerous” for the safety and wellbeing of female inmates.

The SPS said that any newly convicted or remanded transgender prisoner will initially be placed in an establishment commensurate with their birth gender, and that any exceptional cases will require the approval of Scottish ministers. However, the SPS also said that it will consider the individual circumstances of each transgender prisoner, including their gender identity, their risk of harm and their human rights.

The SPS policy was announced after an urgent review of the case of Isla Bryson, a transgender woman who was convicted of raping two women while she was known as a man named Adam Graham. Bryson was initially housed in segregation at Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only all-female prison, but was later moved to a male wing at HMP Edinburgh after an intervention from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Sturgeon defends the rights of transgender people

Sturgeon, who is also the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), said that she did not favour “a blanket approach” to transgender prisoners, and that she believed no rapist should be held in a women’s prison. She also said that she would not allow any suggestion to take root that trans women pose an inherent threat to women.

Sturgeon has been facing pressure from some members of her own party and from feminist groups over her support for the rights of transgender people, especially in relation to the proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). The GRA allows people to legally change their gender without medical evidence, but some critics argue that it could undermine the rights and protections of women and girls.

Scotland’s policy on transgender prisoners sparks controversy

Sturgeon has repeatedly stated that she is committed to advancing the rights of both women and transgender people, and that she does not see them as incompatible. She has also said that she will not tolerate any abuse or harassment of anyone based on their gender identity or expression.

Transgender prisoners face challenges and risks in prison

Transgender prisoners are a vulnerable group in the prison system, as they often face discrimination, harassment, violence and isolation from other inmates and staff. They also have specific needs and challenges, such as accessing appropriate healthcare, clothing, toiletries and facilities.

According to a report by the Scottish Trans Alliance, there were 21 transgender prisoners in Scotland in 2019, out of a total prison population of about 8,000. The report also found that transgender prisoners were more likely to experience mental health problems, self-harm and suicide attempts than the general prison population.

The report recommended that the SPS should adopt a more flexible and individualized approach to the placement and management of transgender prisoners, and that it should provide better training and guidance for staff and inmates on transgender issues. It also suggested that the SPS should create specialist units or wings for transgender prisoners, where they could receive more support and protection.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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