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Secret report reveals female inmates living in fear of abuse by trans prisoners

© Andrew Milligan/PA WireIsla Bryson, (previously known as Adam Graham) was convicted of raping two women prior to transitioning and was sent to a women’s prison.
Isla Bryson, (previously known as Adam Graham) was convicted of raping two women prior to transitioning and was sent to a women’s prison.

Vulnerable female inmates silenced over their views on transgender prisoners are living in fear.

Their concerns are revealed in a secret report obtained by The Post. It shows prisoners fear some trans offenders are manipulating the system by ditching hormone therapy used to help them transition as soon as they reach “easier” female prisons.

The revelations, contained in a review on transgender prisoners that was not made public, show traumatised women are terrified of being sexually abused by male offenders who claim to be transitioning.

It comes after public outrage over the Isla Bryson scandal, when the double rapist (previously called Adam Graham) was placed in Cornton Vale women’s prison last year. Bryson had self-identified as a transitioning woman while on remand for the rapes. When she was found guilty, then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was forced to step in amid public condemnation. Bryson was then sent to HMP Edinburgh to serve her eight-year sentence.

Despite all this, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said that, from February 29, it would continue to place trans prisoners in female jails as long as they had no history of violence towards women. SPS drew up its controversial policy after a series of reviews, asking the views of female prisoners and officers – but last week refused to share what those views are.

Prison reviews

A Post investigation has gained access to several reviews, which contain shocking claims of trans prisoners “manipulating the system”, and refusing, as soon as they get into women’s jails, to take the female hormones that prevent their male genitalia “working”. Female prisoners say they feel intimidated by the presence of transgender prisoners and live in fear of being attacked. One prisoner said of a fellow trans inmate: “If I was to have an argument with them then I would feel at risk because that’s the strength of a man. I’ve been hurt by a guy before.”

Another said: “The last one to get out [of jail] is now back living as a man. The one before that got out – back living as a man. When he was in our hall, he was telling people ‘I’m stopping taking my medication because I can’t get [an erection]’.”

Yet another said: “They wanted to be in this hall because they wanted to have sex with loads of lassies.”

Campaigners say trans prisoners should not be placed in a women’s jail where the vast majority of inmates have suffered lives of physical, sexual and domestic abuse.

Isla Bryson row

The row that erupted over Bryson, 31, from Dumbarton, led to such a public and political outcry, the SPS was forced to review its transgender policy. In December it announced it would be seeking to “risk assess” each case and it had reviewed trans prisoner management policies. The Sunday Post has seen page after page of Scottish prisoner reviews where all women are immediately referred to as “cis” – women born female who identify as women.

The review also spoke to prison staff, many of whom voiced concern over transgender prisoners being placed in women’s jails.

However, in the review, prison staff were described as “transphobic”.

Reviewers accused staff of failing to ­recognise “hate crime”, fobbing it off as “banter”, and “role modelling transphobia”.

Rhona Hotchkiss – the former governor of a number of Scotland’s largest prisons, including Cornton Vale – is so incensed over what she describes as biased and “unscientifically judgmental” reviews, she has written to Teresa Medhurst, the new head of the SPS.

She expressed an “increasing concern” for the wellbeing of female prisoners as well as staff. Hotchkiss said: “Why was this research never issued by the SPS? Possibly because it’s hopelessly biased and poor quality, or possibly because it would increase the pressure on them and the SNP Government?”

She said: “It is abundantly clear that women in prison – not all of them and not all of the time – are by turns distressed, frightened, annoyed or irritated by the presence of men who identify as women in women’s prisons. They are particularly scathing about men who still have male genitalia, and that is almost all of them, being in women’s prisons, men who did not identify as women before they were arrested or came into prison, and men who no longer identify as women when they get out of prison.

“Last year, Humza Yousaf said of Isla Bryson ‘He’s at it’. I agree. Women in prison agree. Most rational, sensible people agree. It’s time to shout it out loud!”

The former governor also attacked claims that staff are transphobic as “intolerable, given my knowledge of working with this staff group”. She said: “While women in prison are my main focus, I am also concerned about the impact on staff of having to strip-search prisoners of the opposite sex, and of having to buy into the fiction that trans women are literally women although they have no Gender Recognition Certificate and still have male bodies.”

SPS ‘failing to learn lessons’

Criminologist Dr Kath Murray said the SPS was “failing to learn the lessons from the Isla Bryson/Adam Graham scandal” and called on MSPs to reject the new policy. She said: “Their policy ignores routine ­safeguards based on what sex a person is, designed to protect women.

“Instead of asking why any men should be allowed to access the female estate, it (the SPS) has focused on developing a policy that makes sure at least some are able to do so, if they self-identify as the opposite sex. To do this, the prison service has ignored or downplayed robust evidence on the vulnerability and trauma of female prisoners, male offending risks, and human rights standards.

“Like the Scottish Government, SPS fails to understand that concerns about self-­identification relate to what sex a person actually is, not whether they are transgender. Men who identify as women present just the same risks as any other men – because, put simply, people cannot change sex.”

She said SPS either does not understand or is “wilfully ignoring” prioritising trans prisoners over the rights of women prisoners to be and feel safe from “male aggression”.

Murray said: “They claim to be confident of their risk-assessment process, conveniently ignoring their own past record of placing ‘risk-assessed’ violent men in the female estate, including those convicted of murder, torture and sexual assault.”

Karen Ingala Smith, whose work protecting women from violence and Counting Dead Women campaign has international support, said: “Most women in prison have been subjected to sexual and domestic violence and abuse. They deserve a safe space – space to recover from abuse.

“They do not have the choice to walk away from the presence of a transgender identified man if he is in what should be a women’s prison. They should be safe and should feel safe. They should not be society’s litmus test.”

The response

The Scottish Prison Service said: “Our new policy supports the health, safety and wellbeing of all people living and working in Scotland’s prisons.

“We will carefully consider a range of factors, including offending history, with a particular focus on violence against women and girls, when assessing risk. 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 those with expertise in violence against women and girls, interviews with men and women in custody, those that are transgender and those who are not.

“While we seek to be as open and transparent as possible, we must uphold our statutory obligation to ensure those in our care have their personal information protected.”

Phil Fairley, Assistant General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association, said: “We have raised a variety of issues in discussions and feel we have secured better protections and solutions through those discussions.”

The POA rejected accusations of transphobia, and said: “This is simply contrary to our experience of the professionalism and even-handed approach the vast majority of our members take in their work.”