Prison Service to stop transgender inmates serving sentences in women's wings

REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Transgender inmates are to serve their prison sentences in separate wings over concerns for the safety of female prisoners.

The Prison Service is introducing the changes following outcry over the case of Karen White, a convicted paedophile who was still legally male with male genitalia at the time she was housed a female-only prison because she identified as a woman. While in the women's prison, she went on to sexually assault two inmates.

According to The Times, justice minister Ed Argar confirmed that the Government is now 'revising' previous guidelines which advised that the 'great majority' of trans prisoners should be allowed to 'experience the system in the gender in which they identify'. 

'We take the Karen White case very seriously,' he said.

'New guidelines will be published shortly to ensure that [the policy] continues to strike the right balance between ensuring that all female prisoners are kept safe [and] that transgender prisoners have their rights respected.' 

Changes on the table include special wings or sections to house trans inmates, while Argar reportedly also confirmed that the 'difficult decision' had been made to move a 'small number' of transgender women back into male prisons. 

The debate around transgender rights has been divided on the issue of women-only spaces, with feminists in particular calling for greater protection as the Government considers whether to change the law to allow people to self-identify their gender without the need for medical evidence. 

The proposed changes are being fiercely resisted by feminist groups who fear that gender self-identification will expose women and girls to increased danger from sexual predators. 

Nicola Williams, of Fair Play for Women, told The Times that the revision to housing transgender prisoners was 'an admission that allowing males to self-identify as women and letting them into women's spaces is dangerous'.