Doubt at high num­ber of trans­gen­der in­mates

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Charles Hy­mas Home Af­fairs edi­tor

There are fears pris­on­ers may be at­tempt­ing to se­cure ex­tra perks after a sur­vey showed that one in 50 male in­mates self-iden­ti­fied as trans­gen­der, a pro­por­tion at least four times that of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. It sug­gested there were up to 1,500 trans­gen­der in­mates in Eng­land and Wales, more than 10 times pre­vi­ous es­ti­mates. Trans­gen­der pris­on­ers are en­ti­tled to shower alone and to have sep­a­rate cells, and can ap­ply to switch be­tween male and fe­male jails.

ONE IN 50 male in­mates self-iden­ti­fies as trans­gen­der, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the pris­ons watch­dog, amid con­cerns that of­fend­ers may be at­tempt­ing to se­cure ex­tra perks.

The fig­ure, cal­cu­lated for the first time, sug­gests there are up to 1,500 trans­gen­der in­mates among 90,000 pris­on­ers in Eng­land and Wales, more than 10 times pre­vi­ous es­ti­mates and at least four times the pro­por­tion in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. Among of­fend­ers from trav­eller com­mu­ni­ties, the pro­por­tion self-iden­ti­fy­ing as trans­gen­der or trans­sex­ual is one in 10, ac­cord­ing to the re­port by Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of pris­ons.

Trans­gen­der pris­on­ers are en­ti­tled to shower alone and to have sep­a­rate cells, and can ap­ply to switch be­tween male and fe­male jails. Ear­lier this year the Min­istry of Jus­tice (MOJ) cre­ated a “wing” for trans­gen­der pris­on­ers to keep them away from other in­mates.

Mark Fairhurst, the Prison Of­fi­cers As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man, said there “would al­ways be some try­ing to abuse the sys­tem” but it would not affect of­fi­cers’ ap­proach to treat trans­gen­der in­mates with re­spect and dig­nity.

Harry Fletcher, the Vic­tims’ Rights Cam­paign direc­tor, said he was con­vinced that “for some this is a to­tal tryon” to­wards a more re­laxed regime.

The sur­vey of 5,133 pris­on­ers found 2 per cent self-iden­ti­fied as trans­gen­der or trans­sex­ual, ris­ing to 10 per cent of the 287 trav­eller of­fend­ers sur­veyed. Ex­trap­o­lated across the whole prison sys­tem, this would mean about 1,500.

By con­trast, the Government equal­i­ties of­fice es­ti­mates as few as 0.5 per cent or 200,000 in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion are trans­gen­der. Na­tion­ally, just 5,000 trans­gen­der peo­ple have been is­sued gen­der recog­ni­tion cer­tifi­cates.

MOJ fig­ures last November said there were 139 trans­gen­der pris­on­ers in 44 jails. Of the 42 in women’s jails, 22 were men who iden­ti­fied as fe­male, while in male pris­ons 92 of the 97 were men iden­ti­fy­ing as women.

The re­port warned that “pris­ons were of­ten un­aware of the true num­ber of gay, bi­sex­ual and other ori­en­ta­tion pris­on­ers and the sup­port for this group was of­ten very lim­ited”.

Asked if the com­par­a­tively high fig­ures sug­gested it was be­ing ex­ploited, Mr Clarke said this was not cov­ered by the sur­vey. But he added: “Some­times we find the num­bers of peo­ple iden­ti­fy­ing as trans­gen­der are higher in our sur­vey than the prison will think.” For those that did iden­tify as trans­gen­der, he said in­spec­tors had seen “con­sid­er­able care” paid to their re­quire­ments.

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