Britain Opens First Transgender Prison After Sex Attacks at Women’s Jails

WREXHAM, WALES - MARCH 15: A prison guard walks through a cell area at HMP Berwyn on March 15, 2017 in Wrexham, Wales. The mainly category C prison is one of the biggest jails in Europe capable of housing around to 2,100 inmates. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty

Britain will open Europe’s first transgender prison wing this week, after sexual assaults at women’s jails by male inmates who ‘identified’ as female.

Three offenders who were born male but have since legally changed gender will be the first inmates housed at the new unit, which The Times reports will be situated at Downview prison in a building previously named after the Victorian-era feminist, Josephine Butler.

They will initially be kept separate in the new wing, without access to other offenders at the jail, according to the Ministry of Justice, which said a review on the management of transgender prisoners was still ongoing, and that “no final decisions have been made” regarding its wider policies on the issue.

Downview’s 320 women inmates have reportedly felt “significant concern” over plans to introduce male-bodied offenders to the facility, with convicted sex offenders making up almost 50 per cent of the transgender prison population in England and Wales.

The move comes after biological male offender Karen White, who was jailed for multiple violent rapes, sexually assaulted multiple female inmates within weeks of being sent to a women’s prison.

The success of the new unit would be measured on how effectively the jail’s female inmates were protected, according to Prison Governors Association chief Andrea Albutt, who said “the number one priority” at Downview should be ensuring safeguards are in place “to make sure that a Karen White event doesn’t happen again.”

Karen White is not the only case in which a male-bodied, transgender, convicted sex offender in Britain has been accused of sexually assaulting female inmates after transfer to a women’s jail, while doctors and governors have warned of “a plethora of prison intelligence suggesting” a “driving force” for some male offenders identifying as the opposite sex was “a desire to make subsequent sexual offending very much easier”.

The move was “cautiously welcomed” by feminist campaign group Fair Play for Women, which has sounded the alarm over the threat to women-only spaces such as jails and changing rooms they say is posed by government plans to allow men to “self-identify” as the opposite sex with minimal red tape and no medical checks.

Transgender activists, however, expressed fury over the development on Twitter, with one campaigner branding the new prison wing an equality laws-breaching “ghetto”, while another likened the situation to yellow star badges issued to Jews by National Socialist German authorities during wartime.

A large proportion of activists’ ire was focused on alleging the decision sends the “shocking” and “bigoted” message that there are differences between female-identifying transgender people and biological women, with one user lamenting that the move to create a separate jail “is just heartbreaking and awful regardless of what these women were accused of”.

.