Trans prisoners with history of violence blocked from entering women’s prisons in Scotland

The silhouette of a women against prison wires in the colours of the trans Pride flag

Scotland is reportedly set to temporarily halt sending trans prisoners with a history of violence to women-only jails.

Justice secretary Keith Brown announced on Monday (30 January) that an “urgent review” into several cases of trans women, charged with assaulting women, is to be carried out.

The move comes amid controversy surrounding recently imprisoned trans woman Isla Bryson, who was found guilty of raping two women before she transitioned.

A public outcry after Bryson was remanded to Cornton Vale women’s prison prompted first minister Nicola Sturgeon to announce on Thursday (26 January) that Bryson would be moved to a men’s prison.

Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood during a parliamentary debate.
Nicola Sturgeon announced that Isla Bryson would be moved to a men’s prison. (Getty)

Since then, the justice secretary has responded to further criticisms over the approval to move trans women with a history of violence to women’s jails in Scotland.

Brown stated that no trans person in custody would be permitted to move from male to female jails and that newly convicted trans prisoners who are deemed a danger to women would be kept in male prisons.

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“As the first minister pointed out last week, we must not allow any suggestion to take root that trans women pose an inherent threat to women,” Brown said.

“As with any group in society, a small number of trans women will offend and be sent to prison,” he added. “Therefore, I hope that the measures… will offer reassurance in the ongoing ability of the prison service to manage trans individuals and ensure the safety of all prisoners.”

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While there is no definitive end date to the temporary policy, a Scottish Prison Service spokesperson reassured the BBC that the urgent review was already under way.

“This arrangement will be progressed in line with our human rights obligations,” they continued. “Our ongoing policy review will be independently assessed by experts in women affected by trauma and violence.”

Trans prisoners account for a tiny portion of prison population

As of September 2022, there are at least 11 trans women and four trans men currently held in Scottish prisons.

This accounts for approximately 0.2 per cent of the population currently imprisoned in Scottish estates, with at least 7,092 male and 280 female prisoners.

Meanwhile, in England and Wales, there are at least 230 trans prisoners – 168 identify as trans women, 42 as trans men, 13 as non-binary, and seven who did not provide a response or identify differently.

According to a report from the Ministry of Justice in November 2022, a large majority of these prisoners were sent to estates that do not correspond with their gender.

The report stated that 181 trans prisoners were in male estates and 49 were in female estates, with six transgender women in female “establishments”.

Of the 11 trans women currently imprisoned in Scotland, six are in men’s prisons.

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The Scottish justice secretary also told BBC’s Good Morning Scotland that no trans prisoners with a history of violence against women were being held in women’s prisons.

“This changes on a regular basis but it is my understanding there are no transgender women in the female estate that have violence against women convictions,” he said.

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