Edinburgh protesters demand trans women are kept out of female prisons

Edinburgh protest against transgender prisoners policy
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Protesters gathered en masse in Edinburgh yesterday as they called for transgender women to be kept out of female prisons.

Women Won't Wheesht held a demonstration outside Scottish Government building St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, on Friday, February 16, to protest against the Scottish Prison Service's (SPS) Transgender Management Policy (TMP).

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Protesters held signs, banners and placards emblazoned with the likes of "rapists have more rights than women", "trans units for trans prisoners" and "no males in female jails" outside the building.

It comes after the group wrote to Justice Secretary Angela Constance on Thursday, calling on her to intervene and overturn the SPS Transgender Management Policy.

The policy states an "individualised" approach will be taken from February 24, with inmates initially placed in the male estate until sufficient information is known on whether they can be accommodated in accordance with their chosen gender.

Inmates will not be placed in the female estate if it "gives rise to unacceptable risks" which cannot be mitigated.

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The letter, sent to the justice secretary on Thursday, says the TMP "fails vulnerable women and places them at an unnecessary risk of male violence including psychological coercive control".

They referenced the Angiolini Commission Report, which they say "highlighted the vulnerable and complex needs of women prisoners", stating around 80 per cent of incarcerated women have brain injuries as a result of domestic violence.

They told Ms Constance that the best way for women to recover from male violence is in an all-female environment, and that the TMP rule does not take into consideration "the needs of vulnerable women", and that it "further risks traumatising women."

They added: "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.

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"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?"

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The protesters have said that public trust has been "sorely tested following the Isla Bryson scandal".

Members of campaign group, Women Won't Wheesht, protest outside Scottish Government building St Andrews House in Edinburgh, to demand that no males are housed in women's prisons in Scotland.Members of campaign group, Women Won't Wheesht, protest outside Scottish Government building St Andrews House in Edinburgh, to demand that no males are housed in women's prisons in Scotland.
Members of campaign group, Women Won't Wheesht, protest outside Scottish Government building St Andrews House in Edinburgh, to demand that no males are housed in women's prisons in Scotland.

A political storm erupted last year when transgender double rapist Isla Bryson - originally known as Adam Graham - was placed at HMP Cornton Vale, Scotland's only all-female prison, before the prisoner was eventually moved to the male estate at HMP Edinburgh.

The protesters wrote: "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?"

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They said women in prison have the right to be free from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment.

An SPS spokesperson said its new policy considers the wellbeing of all prisoners due to its individual approach.

They said: "Our new policy supports the health, safety, and wellbeing of all people living and working in Scotland's prisons, by taking an individualised approach to the admission, placement, and management of transgender people.

"We will carefully consider a range of factors, including offending history, with a particular focus on violence against women and girls, when assessing risk.

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"No transgender women, with a history of violence against women and girls, who presents a risk to women, will be placed in the female estate.

"The policy has been developed by SPS following extensive engagement including input from expert in violence against women, various interviews with men and women in custody, those that are transgender and those who are not."

Justice Secretary Angela Constance said: "The updated Scottish Prison Service (SPS) policy protects the safety and welfare of staff, those in their care and the rights of transgender people.

"It makes clear that if a transgender woman meets the service's violence against women and girls criteria they will be admitted and accommodated in the male estate.

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"SPS has considerable expertise, as well as a duty of care for the management of people in their custody, and this policy upholds its responsibilities to deliver safe, secure and suitable services for all."

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