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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Sex swap prisoners get right to bras and make-up

Sex swap prisoners get right to bras and make-up

Prison officers have been ordered to allow transsexual prisoners access to padded bras and make-up.

By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent 9:15PM GMT 05 Mar 2011




A detailed new policy document drawn up by Kenneth Clarke's Ministry of Justice sets out the rights of sex change inmates, saying they must be allowed to purchase "gender appropriate" clothing from a home shopping catalogue.

Jail warders, who are already required to address inmates by courtesy titles such as Mister, must call transsexual prisoners "Miss" or "Ms" under the new mandatory guidelines, which come into effect later this month.

The document also offers advice on other problematic issues when dealing with transsexual prisoners – such as access to prison showers – and urges officers to contact the Ministry of Justice's dedicated "gender recognition policy team" if they have questions about the policy.

The 20-page guidebook, issued to prison governors last week, says: "An establishment must permit prisoners who consider themselves transsexual and wish to begin gender reassignment to live permanently in their acquired gender."

It says that concessions which must be made "include allowing prisoners to dress in clothes appropriate to their acquired gender and adopting appropriate names and modes of address".

Transsexuals must be allowed access to items which help them adopt their new gender, the new rules say, such as medical prostheses and – in the case of those changing from male to female – padded bras and make-up to cover beard growth.

"Transsexual people, particularly those who have not undergone surgery or extended hormone therapy, may use various items to assist with their presentation in their acquired gender," insists the guide.

"These can range from sophisticated prostheses to padded bras.

"Regardless of their level of sophistication, access to them can only be restricted in exceptional circumstances.

"These items may only be prohibited when it can be demonstrated that they present a security risk."

Any prison which attempts to stop transsexual prisoners from having such items could be taken to court for judicial review, the paper warns.

"Both male to female and female to male transsexual people may use make-up to present more convincingly in their acquired gender.

"Make-up that is vital to presenting in the acquired gender, such as foundation to cover up beard growth, may not be restricted."

Unlike other male prisoners, transsexuals will not be expected to wear prison uniform if they are punished by being moved to the basic privileges regime.

"Allowing male to female transsexual prisoners to wear their own clothes is not a privilege," it says.

"It may be helpful to explain this to other prisoners who are required to wear prison uniform."

The document advises that suitable clothing can be ordered from the Additions mail order catalogue, if the inmate has enough money. Alternatively, friends and family can provide garments or nearby prisons could donate clothes, it adds.

If a previously-male inmate has been through the legal process to obtain a "gender recognition certificate" as a female, then they are entitled to a place in a female prison unless there are security grounds for refusal, it says.

If no certificate has been issued then a meeting should be held to decide whether the inmate should be in a male or female prison, it continues.

"Before a prisoner is placed in custody, attempts must be made to determine which gender is recognised under UK law," say the guidelines which come into force on March 14.

"This is a legal issue rather than an anatomical one, and under no circumstances should a physical search or examination be conducted for this purpose,"

The number of transsexual prisoners is said to be very low but in 2009, a transsexual killer who was born a man won a High Court legal case to be moved to a women's jail because holding her in a male prison was a violation of her human rights.

The killer, known only as "A", was serving life for manslaughter and attempted rape committed while she was a man. She had her female status legally recognised even though she had not completed gender reassignment surgery, the court heard.

Last month it emerged that an inmate at a women's prison was a transsexual who was still waiting for a swap operation.

Nicola Wilson, 23, was sent to Cornton Vale in Scotland after being remanded on an assault charge. She was born Joseph and has yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery, but has started to form breasts due to hormone treatment.

The Prison Service has previously issued official instructions on how to deal with pagan inmates which said they were allowed among their possessions a hoodless robe, rune stones and a flexible twig for a wand.

In 2009, 366 inmates declared their religion as paganism and last year it was agreed they should be given four days off prison work a year to celebrate pagan festivals including Samhain, Imbolc and Beltane.


Comment: I think it is insensitive of the Telegraph to describe this article under the heading "Weird news". It gives the impression that trans gender prisoners are weird.

I have a problem with the following...

"Unlike other male prisoners, transsexuals will not be expected to wear prison uniform if they are punished by being moved to the basic privileges regime".

"Allowing male to female transsexual prisoners to wear their own clothes is not a privilege," it says.

"It may be helpful to explain this to other prisoners who are required to wear prison uniform."

If sex discrimination is not allowed under English law, then why is it a right for women prisoners to wear their own clothes but male prisoners must wear a prison uniform?

I recall this rule from the 1960s, and the rationale being that women lost their femininity by wearing prison uniforms. However, surely men lose their masculinity by wearing prison uniforms?

I am all for equality between the sexes, but this policy favours inequality. Women demand equality except when it comes down to punishment and then they want special treatment!

4 comments:

Megegg said...

Enjoyed the article, and am all for people being allowed to express themselves, but it should cut both ways.

The comment I found offensive was the following:-(
"Women demand equality except when it comes down to punishment and then they want special treatment!"

What a sexist comment to make, especially as we are talking about trans gender here. Not all of us are willing to take our equality so lightly. I believe in equal rights, that includes punishments.

Furthermore, if more emphasis was placed on reforming our society and its attitudes to prisoners then just maybe we wouldnt have so many inmates to punish, equally or not.

jailhouselawyer said...

Megegg: I am sorry that you found my comment sexist. Obviously, it was a generalisation. I am fed up of reading articles by the likes of Helena Kennedy saying women should not go to prison, should get more lenient sentences, etc. This is sexist!

If we are going to reform the system then it goes across the board.

There is evidence that women lifers would go out on shopping trips denied male lifers. This is blatant sex discrimination.

MM said...

What seems perverse, is that being straight or white is NOT something you can expect to get legal support for. When I see real equality within the law, I might buy in to it. Seems the more 'diverse' you are, the more rights you get.

richard said...

"Allowing male to female transsexual prisoners to wear their own clothes is not a privilege,"

Surely "male to female transsexual" is surplus here. Either allowing any prisoner to wear their own clothes is a privilege, or it isn't.

Allowing a chap to dress in drag but not wear a pair of jeans seems a little strange.