May 11, 2020 - 12:07pm

Female prisoners are some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised women on the planet. Most have suffered some type of male violence and end up in prison as a result of chaotic behaviour and substance abuse, which stems from childhood sexual abuse and neglect. Disproportionate numbers have been through the care system.

The women’s estate is the poor relative of the men’s, with far fewer resources. Why was the first dedicated wing set up to contain high-risk sex transgender offenders placed in a female rather than male prison? E Wing in Downview Prison, Surrey, was set up in the wake of the Karen White scandal. E Wing prisoners sleep and shower separately from the women but are allowed to mix with the female population during some leisure activities. Why could E Wing not have been set up in the men’s estate?

E Wing was previously a unit for assisting up to 16 women preparing for release. These women have now been returned to the general wing, and therefore lost hard-earned privileges.

I have campaigned on behalf of women in prison since co-founding Justice for Women in 1991, and am furious that these women now have to worry about attacks from transgender sex offenders as well as male prison staff.

Bearing in mind the high numbers of women suffering from trauma caused by abusive men, it is particularly shocking that the Prison Service (PS) consider it a workable solution to place high-risk transgender sex offenders in women’s prisons.

According to official Prison Service figures, transgender prisoners are five times more likely to carry out sex attacks on inmates at women’s jails than other prisoners. There have been seven recorded attacks since 2010 by transgender prisoners, and these figures don’t even include those prisoners who have legally changed sex.

In a report published in October 2019 by the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, it was clearly stated that: “Individuals managed by HMPPS (PS) are able to self-declare that they are transgender and are supported to express the gender (or non-gender) with which they identify, with staff using correct pronouns.”

Despite the PS claiming to have considered the rights of all those in custody alongside transgender sex offenders, stating that “These risks must be considered fully and balanced against each other,” the policy fails to balance the rights of female prisoners and transgender inmates. Ultimately, it places the rights of trans-identified male bodied sex offenders above those of women in fear of male violence.

Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. Her latest book is Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation. She also writes on Substack.