Regan: Scottish Prison Service transgender prisoner policy puts women at risk

Alba Party’s Holyrood leader Ash Regan MSP has hit out at the new policy for housing male transgender prisoners in Scotland’s women’s prison estate.

The Alba MSP says that the Scottish Parliament is being “set up” over the issue. In departure from previous policies, the new policy puts all decision-making on the placement of male transgender prisoners into the hands of SPS. Not only does this remove political accountability, but the accompanying refusal to publish the full data on how many males are held in the female estate also makes scrutiny by parliamentarians impossible.

Ms Regan spoke out after the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee considered the Scottish Prison Service’s revised policy for transgender prisoners, which was finally published before Christmas after five years of waiting for the promised changes.

SPS first stated the policy would be reviewed in 2018, after being forced to admit that they had failed to consider the needs of female prisoners when they adopted it. Despite the Scottish Government’s high profile court loss over the controversial Gender Reform Bill, the revised policy is still based on the principle of Self-ID.

The policy starts from a default position of excluding only those male prisoners who identify as trans from transferring to the female estate who have been convicted of violence against women and girls. This is a relaxation of the interim policy adopted after the Isla Bryson (previously known as Adam Graham) scandal. To make matters worse, the policy speaks of excluding only those who represent an “unacceptable risk” to female prisoners. Something Regan says is “absurd and a risk to the safety of women because contrary to the view of SPS there cannot, ever, be an acceptable level of risk women are subjected to from male trans identifying prisoners in the female prison estate”.

Commenting, Alba Party Holyrood leader Ash Regan MSP said:

“The Scottish Prison Service bizarrely maintains that there cannot be a stringent regime preventing violent trans-identifying males from being housed in women’s prisons based on sex. Its justification of this is based on the principles that led to the axed Gender Recognition Reform Bill - a policy rejected by the public and struck down by Scotland’s Highest Court.

“The policy seems to be based on the acceptance of the gender self-id of convicted prisoners rather than existing laws, which means that the rights and needs of female prisoners may potentially be unlawfully ignored, leaving SPS vulnerable to indirect discrimination claims from affected female prisoners.

“This new policy is not fit for purpose; it puts women at risk and it will not satisfy the public. I have no doubt that the Cabinet Secretary and SPS would have taken that message away from today’s committee if they were listening.”

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