International News Nov 3, 2021 1:54 PM EST

12 biological males convicted of violent or sexual crimes in Scotland transferred to women's prisons

Within the past 18 months, it has been revealed that 12 prisoners who identify as transgender and were convicted of violence or sexual crimes have been accommodated in Scottish women's jails.

12 biological males convicted of violent or sexual crimes in Scotland transferred to women's prisons
Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

Within the past 18 months, it has been revealed that 12 prisoners who identify as transgender and were convicted of violence or sexual crimes have been accommodated in Scottish women's jails.

A review conducted by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) into Scotland's transgender prison policy will look at the possibility of ending the practice of transitioning male inmates demanding a move to female housing, according to The Times.

Only one of the prisoners had fully transitioned, with the other 11 self-identifying as female, figures released under Freedom of Information laws revealed.

Campaigners are claiming that the policy of allowing prisoners to self-identify without the need for a Gender Recognition Certificate is not legal. It is also traumatizing for female prisoners, many of which have a history of suffering male violence.

Director of the campaign group Keep Prisons Single Sex Dr. Kate Coleman, urged prison heads to take into account the impact on women of housing trans prisoners among them.

"The evidence clearly indicates that where prisoners of the male sex, no matter how they identify, are held in women's prisons, women in prison are negatively impacted," she said. "I trust that the SPS will pay heed to that fact."

"My experience is that it is always an issue to have trans women in with female prisoners and you have to think beyond the obvious which is physical or sexual threat, which is sometimes an issue, to the very fact of the presence of male-bodied prisoners among vulnerable women causes them distress and consternation," Rhona Hotchkiss, a former governor of Cornton Vale women's prison in Stirling, said.

A spokesman for the SPS told The Times that 12 trans prisoners were currently housed in the Scottish prison system, including one male trans prisoner in the male estate, but declined to give a breakdown of the offenses. They also noted that risk management is done on an individual basis.

"All cases are treated on an individual basis and are risk-assessed through a multi-disciplinary case conference, transgender case conference supported by transgender policy," the spokesperson said.

"Any decisions about the location of transgender prisoners are only made after an individual risk assessment has taken place. This process considers the risks potentially presented both to and by the individuals," they continued.

"We take very seriously our duty of care towards all in our custody. We also undertake regular prison surveys, which includes a focus on the experience and needs of the people in our care — this is an important part of the SPS' evidence base for policy," they added.

Prison bosses say they will consult with campaigners, female inmates, and prison officers regarding its transgender policy, as well as open up the consultation to the public following criticism for failing to do so when the policy was created in 2014.

"One of the groups we will be particularly keen to consult is the female prison population, who have not been specifically consulted about this before," said  a spokesman for the SPS. "The need for wider consultations has been recognized and the planned consultation will provide an opportunity for a wide range of groups to have input."

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