Doubt at high number of transgender inmates
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.