Scottish Prisons Transgender Policy

Residents in Scotland, add your signature to our letter asking Angel Constance to overturn the Scottish Prison Service Transgender Management Policy.

Letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice & Home Affairs, Angela Constance, to overturn the Scottish Prison Service Transgender Management Policy.

We the undersigned call upon the Cabinet Secretary for Justice & Home Affairs, Angela Constance, to intervene and overturn the Scottish Prison Service Transgender Management Policy. This policy fails vulnerable women and places them at an unnecessary risk of male violence including psychological coercive control.

The Angiolini Commission Report highlighted the vulnerable and complex needs of women prisoners. Around 80% of incarcerated women were found to have a brain injury as a result of domestic violence. Traumatised women in prison have no escape or control over their trauma responses.

It is long established and well understood that best practice for women to recover from male violence is in an all female environment.  This policy informs us that the needs of vulnerable women aren’t taken into consideration and the actions of the SPS further risks traumatising women.

This policy flies in the face of the evidence which underpins the Angiolini Report and testimony from former female prisoners reveals a serious risk of punishment should they object to males in their spaces. This completely undermines the positive steps taken in Scotland to address the issues raised in the report.

The policy speaks of “unacceptable risk”, the implication being the SPS believes there is an acceptable level of risk for female prisoners. There is never an acceptable risk and we cannot predict with any certainty which males are a risk. We know male violence is under-reported. We know very few cases see the inside of a police station let alone a court room so how do the SPS plan to risk assess that which they don’t know?

The public’s trust and confidence in the SPS to undertake risk assessments has been sorely tested following the Isla Bryson scandal. The fact the SPS were considering placing a double rapist in a female prison does not reflect well on the SPS’s risk assessment competencies.

Ms Teresa Medhurst, Scottish Prison Service CEO, stated at the Criminal Justice Committee that the SPS are a trauma informed service. How can this be when the policy states that males will still be placed in the female estate despite the detrimental impact it’ll have on women living with trauma?

Women in the prison estate are still entitled to have their human rights upheld. The right to be free from torture and inhumane or degrading treatment. Forcing women to share their restricted space with men particularly women living with trauma as a result of male violence is inhumane and degrading.

The SPS finds itself in the ludicrous position where a violent male says he’s a woman, demands access to the female prison estate and female staff members are no longer able to simply opt out of intimate body searches of prisoners of the opposite sex.  Will female staff have to disclose their trauma in order to be excused from this task? What robust measures are in place to ensure female officers are not coerced into performing intimate searches on males?

Scottish Prison Officers Association spokesman Phil Fairlie publicly stated his concerns around female staff feeling pressured into carrying out intimate searches of males.

Until these questions are adequately answered and robust measures are in place protecting women’s safety, privacy and dignity this policy must be withdrawn.