England and Wales, UK – A recent survey found that the number of inmates in England and Wales who self-identify as transgender has surged to ten times previous estimates, such that one in 50 prisoners now say they are transgender. The numbers of men “transitioning to women” has increased so rapidly that officials express uncertainty as to how to manage the situation.
In 2016, when data on the number of transgender inmates was first collected, 70 prisoners said they identified as transgender. By 2018, the number of inmates who identified as transgender had doubled to 100. Currently, 1,500 of the 90,000 inmates incarcerated in England and Wales say they are transgender, an increase of ten times the previous figure.
Statistics from the Government Equalities Office show that 0.5 percent of people living in England and Wales are transgender, an estimate of 200,000 people. The percentage of inmates who identify as transgender exceeds by four times the percentage of transgender people in the general population.
Transgender inmates housed in men’s prison receive such entitlements as the option of being placed in single cells and taking showers alone.
Under a 2017 policy issued by the UK Ministry of Justice (MOJ), male inmates may be transferred to women’s prisons if they express “a consistent desire to live permanently in the gender they identify with.” The year the policy was enacted, the number of men identifying as women jumped by 70%.
The UK’s MOJ was forced to reexamine the policy of placing men who identify as women with female inmates after public backlash followed reports of transgender inmates sexually attacking female inmates.
Jessica Winfield, a divorced father-of-three previously named Martin Ponting, was imprisoned for life for the rapes of two little girls. Mr Winfield had to be placed in isolation after several female inmates accused him of sexual attacks. Karen White, a father of one who was previously known as Stephen Thomas, was incarcerated for burglary and the stabbing of a male neighbor. Mr White was returned to men’s prison after he confessed to sexually attacking two female inmates. According to MOJ statistics, nearly half of all transgender inmates are convicted sex offenders.
The current policy of the MOJ is to house biologically male transgender inmates in a separate wing of women’s prisons.
There “would always be some trying to abuse the system,” Mark Fairhurst, chair of the Prison Officers Association (POA) acknowledged, but promised that it would not affect officers’ objective to treat transgender inmates with respect and dignity.
The number of men applying to enter women’s prisons has also risen rapidly in the United States. The state of California recently voted to house inmates by gender identity, although the state had to reverse course seven years ago after the first male prisoner placed in women’s prison in the state, Richard Masbruch, was accused of sexually attacking female inmates, sparking public outcry.
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