The has been a sharp rise in the number of male prison inmates in Britain claiming to be transgender, leading to fears that some could be lying to officials to gain privileges.
The Sunday Times reports that there are now up to 100 transgender prisoners in British prisons who have the right to wear women’s clothing, using private washing facilities and be searched only be female officers. The only criteria for a prisoner to be recognised as transgender is for them to declare themselves to be so, with no outside psychiatric test required.
The rise has also caused disciplinary and management problems of prison staff, with many linked to complaints of ‘over-sexualised’ conduct.
Littlehey Prison in Huntingdon is currently under investigation following an alleged sexual assault on a transgender inmate, while Full Sutton Prison, near York, received heavy criticism last year following the suicide of a transgender inmate.
The rise in numbers follows the introduction of new rules on the treatment of transsexual prisoners in 2011. Although intended to help staff deal with genuine cases of gender dysphoria, critics say it has made it easier to prisoners to fool staff as it allows them to self-diagnose. They are then able to request private laundry and washing facilities, widely seen as privileges. There is also a perception that they will have a better chance of being granted parole.
Last year, Craig Hudson, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence, secured taxpayer funding to take his prison to court after they refused to let him wear a woman’s wig. The prisoner, who now goes by the name Kimberley Green, also complained about not being offered hormone treatment, hair removal products, prosthetic devices or separate gym changing facilities.
The case was thrown out after the judge ruled that a wig could be used to aid escapes, but the legal bill was still reported as up to £40,000.
Glyn Travis of the Prison Officers’ Association told the Sunday Times: “The numbers have increased since this policy [was introduced] because, although some are genuinely gender dysphoric, others are looking at it as a soft option for prison life, as a way to improve their chances of getting released or for personal reasons.”
Conservative MP Nick de Bois, who sits on parliament’s justice committee, added: “Self-certification is at risk of abuse . . . The review is welcome but how can they do that without the basic figures? They should act speedily to rectify that.”