This transgender woman faced abuse in a men’s jail despite UK law

The UK’s Prison Service broke the law and its own policy to jail a trans woman in a male prison

Trans woman was held in male prison.

The Prison Service kept a trans woman in a male jail, even after the UK legally recognized her as a woman.

We are calling the woman XT for legal reasons. Prison officials put her in a segregated in a dirty, unsanitary cell in a male prison for several months.

The Prison Service ignored all requests for a transfer, despite its own guidelines.

XT’s story

XT was assigned male at birth. However, she lived in her female gender identity for many years. Then, in 2013, a court convicted and imprisoned her for a firearms offence.

Prison officials then placed her in an all-male environment. They did not try to establish her gender identity. And they did not hold a ‘case conference’.

That is in spite of their own guidelines in force at the the time.

These stated: ‘Where there are issues to be resolved, a case conference must be convened and a multi-disciplinary risk assessment should be completed to determine how best to manage a transsexual prisoner’s location.’

Worse followed. XT was placed in the segregation unit at the male prison from May 2014 to July 2015. While there, officers initially locked her in her cell for 23 hours a day, with one hour exercise. The cell was dirty, covered in graffiti and had no internal electricity.

For nine months, until April 2015, the prison wouldn’t let her have gender affirming items. This typically includes make-up, wigs, dresses and so on.

At the same time, other prisoners abused her. This included sexually explicit abuse and threats. It caused her to feel scared, debased, and persecuted.

Prison Service broke the law

Then, in April 2015, the courts gave her a Gender Recognition Certificate, confirming she is legally female.

At this point the Prison Service broke the law by continuing to keep her in a male jail for another three months.

Their guidelines say ‘a male to female transsexual person with a gender recognition certificate’ has to be kept ‘in the female estate’. The only exception is ‘on security grounds’.

Officers finally moved her to a women’s prison in July 2015.

She told GSN: ‘I should not have been held in a male prison for so long without access to my rights. I was despairing and suicidal at times.’

The Prison and Probation Ombudsmen subsequently investigated XT’s complaints. These watchdogs decided Her Majesty’s Prison Service had failed to investigate the transphobic abuse and discrimination XT suffered.

They also found that the refusal to transfer her to a women’s prison was wrong.

She sued the Ministry of Justice which settled the claim

In May 2016, XT brought legal proceedings against the UK’s Ministry of Justice.

Her lawyers argued the government had breached the Equality Act 2010, and Human Rights Act 1998.

In July 2017 the Ministry of Justice agreed to settle XT’s claims. The terms of the settlement are confidential. But the prisons involved in her mistreatment have since apologised to her publically.

Jane Ryan, of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, told us: ‘Transgender women prisoners are a recognised vulnerable group at risk of abuse and discrimination.

‘My client’s lengthy segregation in a male prison is a shameful stain on the Prison Service. The Prison Service must do more to ensure that lawful decisions are taken in regard to allocation and protecting trans prisoners’ rights.’

XT added:

‘I am pleased the Ministry of Justice has apologised for my treatment. And I hope that no other trans woman is subjected to the experiences I had.’

Questions for the Ministry of Justice

Gay Star News contacted the Ministry of Justice.

We asked them:

  • Why did you ignore your own guidelines?
  • How many trans people with gender recognition certificates are now in a prison which doesn’t match their gender?
  • What has this case cost you? How much, if anything, have you paid XT and what were the legal costs?
  • Have you disciplined any staff?
  • What have you done to ensure prison staff in future follow your guidelines?

The ministry did not answer our questions directly.

However, they did tell us:

‘We are firmly committed to ensuring that transgender offenders are treated fairly, lawfully and decently, with their rights and safety respected.

‘New guidelines were issued to staff at the end of last year, following a review into the management and care of transgender offenders. The review involved independent oversight from the Prison Reform Trust and Gendered Intelligence, an organisation that supports trans people and raises awareness about transgender issues.

‘All prisoners, including transgender prisoners, will continue to be held as the law requires, taking into consideration the needs of the offender and any safety concerns”.