Trans women who have harmed or threatened women in Scotland will be held in men’s prisons, unless there is “compelling evidence” they do not present a risk, a new policy has stated.
The changes come following a political storm earlier this year when transgender double rapist Isla Bryson – originally Adam Graham – was placed at HMP Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only all-female prison, before the prisoner was eventually moved to the male estate at HMP Edinburgh.
In the Scottish Prison Service’s (SPS) new managing transgender people in custody policy, an “individualised” approach is set to be taken when the new rules are enforced from February 24 next year.
It means that individuals will “initially” be placed in the male estate until sufficient information is known on whether they can be admitted in accordance with their chosen gender.
The Scottish Tories said the policy is “unacceptable” and puts women at “even greater risk”.
- Trans woman Isla Bryson was convicted of raping two women in January
- Bryson was held in Scotland’s only women’s prison, Cornton Vale, while awaiting sentencing
- The decision to hold Bryson, previously known as Adam Graham, in Cornton Vale caused an outcry
- Bryson was moved to the male prison estate
- The Scottish Prison Service announced a review on transfers of trans inmates
If placing them in the female estate “gives rise to unacceptable risks that cannot be mitigated”, inmates will not be placed in their chosen prison.
The violence against women policy means that if a transgender prisoner is known to have been convicted, remanded or awaiting sentencing for trials including murder, rape or sexual harassment, they will not be eligible for admission to a women’s prison “unless the risk management team, and subsequently the executive panel, are satisfied there is compelling evidence that they do not present an unacceptable risk or harm” to other prisoners.
The policy states: “Where evidence exists that the current or proposed arrangements for the management, or placement, of a transgender person in custody would be a risk to the safety of the person, another person living in custody, or to staff members, steps should be taken to ensure that this risk is minimised as far as practicable”.
Measures include placing the prisoner in the estate that aligns with their sex at birth, enhanced monitoring or placement in a different area of the establishment where risks can be mitigated or managed.
SPS’s chief executive said there were no plans to create a separate unit for trans women within the male prison estate saying there could be risk of isolation and vulnerability given the small numbers of transgender prisoners.
“The new policy sets out very clearly that anyone who is a current or has previously been a risk or a threat to women and girls would not be moved into the women’s estate,” said Teresa Medhurst.
“They will be moved into the male estate and assessments undertaken in the male estate.”
The SPS chief said the last decade had seen an increase in the number of trans prisoners and cases had become more complex.
Responding to critcism that the policy could still see women put at risk, Ms Medhurst said the process was very well-tested” in the Scottish Prison Service.
“I undertook a case review, as I committed to earlier in the year, and I’m satisfied that all transgender women and all transgender men currently in the Scottish Prison Service are housed in the most safe locations possible,” Ms Medhurst told Radio Scotland.
Justice secretary Angela Constance said the updated policy supports the rights of transgender people and the welfare of other prisoners and staff.
Constance said: “This updated policy protects the safety and welfare of staff, those in their care and the rights of transgender people. It makes clear that if a transgender woman meets the service’s violence against women and girls criteria, they will be admitted and accommodated in the male estate.
“SPS has considerable expertise as well as a duty of care for the management of people in their custody and this policy upholds its responsibilities to deliver safe, secure and suitable services for all.”
Russell Findlay, justice spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said: “The SNP shamefully used vulnerable and voiceless female prisoners to impose its dangerous gender self-ID policy by stealth, which resulted in the obscene case of Isla Bryson being sent to a woman’s jail.
“These long overdue new guidelines actually put women at even greater risk by further eroding their fundamental right to single-sex space.
“They say that male prisoners with a history of violence against women or girls should be allowed in the female estate and will only be blocked if they present a risk, which is completely subjective. This is clearly unacceptable – and SNP ministers need to go back to the drawing board.”
Interim arrangements put in place earlier this year, which place transgender individuals on the basis of their sex at birth and prevents transgender inmates with a history of violence against women from being transferred to the female estate, will stay in place until February.
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