The Mail on Sunday
Prison governors: Stop violent male sex offenders who switch gender from transferring to women’s jails
Fears for safety as rising number of trans women convicted as men hope to follow rapist Martin Ponting into female wings
PRISON governors warned last night that transferring sex offenders who are born male but believe they are female into women’s jails could lead to vulnerable inmates being attacked.
The jail chiefs spoke out following Theresa May’s pledge last year to make it simpler to change gender, and to ‘streamline and demedicalise’ the process.
Transgender activists are demanding a change in the law so that anyone can do this simply by announcing they ‘self-identify’ as a member of the opposite sex.
But one governor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: ‘My fear is that this could make it much harder to control the transfer of born-male, transgender prisoners to women’s prisons.
‘ This could lead to vulnerable women being intimidated – and even attacked.’
The warning came as the Ministry of Justice confirmed that dozens of ‘trans-identified male’ prisoners are living as women in jails exclusively housing convicted sex offenders.
The figures, which emerged in new Freedom of Information Act disclosures, show:
At least 34 male-born inmates are living as women in four specialist sex offender jails for men – Littlehey, Isle of Wight, Whatton and Stafford;
A further ten prisoners may be housed at sex offender prisons Bure, Rye Hill and Ashfield;
Governors of sex offender prisons say ‘all or most’ of their transgender inmates are seeking to move to women’s jails;
In at least one prison, this group includes a prisoner convicted of multiple, separate rapes.
Andrea Albutt, president of the Prison Governors Association, who has managed men’s and women’s jails, said: ‘I have seen women feeling very threatened by transgender prisoners’ presence.
‘Women prisoners are very vulnerable. A lot have abusive men in their lives, who are part of the reason they have ended up in prison. To put all men who declare they are women into women’s prisons would be very damaging.
‘You do get trans prisoners who are going through the [transition] process who still look very masculine – they look like men with long hair and make-up. They don’t look feminine, and if they are 6ft 2in they are very scary.
‘ At the same time, they could be objects of ridicule to women. And if you are living as a woman before the change, walking around a landing in a men’s prison in a dress and make- up, t hat will be difficult.’
The new figures reveal that in April last year there were 100 transgender inmates in men’s prisons, and 25 in women’s.
It is known that some transgender women convicted for sex crimes as men have already been moved to women’s jails.
They include Jessica Winfield, who as Martin Ponting was jailed for life in 1995 for raping both an underage girl and the disabled daughter of a family friend. D David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth, said: ‘The Freedom of Information disclosures confirm my worst fears.
‘ If self- identification happens, there will be men who will use it to get into places where women deserve security.
‘ I f someone with a penis is incarcerated, they should be in a man’s prison.’
Prison reformer Frances Crook said that she was worried that ‘ some men with a history of extreme violence and sexual violence against women have found a new way of exercising aggression towards women’.
Ms Crook, executive director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, added: ‘ These men are not transitioning because they like women and want to be a woman, but in order to exert a new kind of control and dominance over women, a sort of infiltration.
‘Moreover, the process is inherently discriminatory. A woman identifying as a man could not be transferred to a man’s jail because
‘Vulnerable women could be attacked’
placing a person with female attributes into a prison to live with 1,000 men, all using communal showers and living areas, would put them in serious danger.’
The Ministry of Justice refuses to say how many of the 25 transgender prisoners in women’s jails – almost double previous estimates – were born men, and how many were women identifying as men.
Last night, it again refused to release this information, claiming it does not hold this data – although there are transgender inmates in just seven women’s prisons.
The ministry has confirmed there are no female-born transgender inmates in men’s jails.
It also refuses t o state how many of the prisoners given transfers have gone through a full, surgical transition.
Research cited by transgender lobby groups suggests that just 20 per cent of male- born transsexuals get any medical treatment, of which only a small minority have male genitals removed.
Another governor said: ‘There are cases of men who i dentify as women who it is appropriate to hold in a women’s prison.
‘My concern is the transgender prisoners who are effectively intact men who are trying to transfer simply to have access to women.’
At present, a transgender maleborn prisoner can only move to a women’s jail if she has a Gender Recognition Certificate, which requires a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and at l east two years of living as a woman, or after being certified by a special prison service panel. However, if the Prime Minister’s comment leads to legal self-identification, these protections will be much weaker.
Dr Nicola Williams, of Fair Play for Women, who filed the Freedom of Information Act requests, added: ‘A change in the law could take away the ability of prisons to make a judgment about whether a transfer is appropriate.
‘ And the Ministry of Justice’s continuing refusal t o provide basic facts is outrageous. How can we have the debate we need without them?’
Full details of the FOI disclosures are on the group’s website.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: ‘We work to manage t ransgender prisoners safely, sensitively and in line with the law – but robust safeguards exist to prevent abuse of this system.’