Case review on management of a transgender prisoner

Women were not at risk from harm

An urgent case review into the management of a transgender person in custody has found that at no point were any women in the care of the prison service at risk of harm.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) review also confirmed the person did not come into contact with any other prisoners during their time at HMP&YOI Cornton Vale and that SPS policy was followed during each decision making process and risk assessment.

The review makes four key recommendations into the management of transgender individuals:

  • the creation of a shared justice process for admitting transgender people to prisons in Scotland – to help improve decision making at admission and subsequent case conferences
  • better communication between justice partners to ensure a clearer approach to the transfer of transgender people from court to custody
  • for the wider SPS Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment (GIGR) Policy Review to consider improvements to ‘admission’ and ‘placement and management’ and for SPS to consider the weight of a person’s previous offending history to be considered as part of the case conference process
  • to strengthen the balance around the risk of harm with an individualised approach as part of the admissions process to prison, allowing for someone to be located in secure isolation for the sole purpose of a risk assessment based on known and unknown risks

In addition to the recommendations, SPS is also undertaking a full multi-disciplinary case review for each transgender person in custody. The Service is also continuing to progress, in dialogue with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders, a review of the management of trans prisoners as part of its GIGR Policy Review.

Until these reviews are complete any transgender person in custody who has a history of violence against women – including sexual offences will not be relocated from the male to female estate. Additionally,  any newly convicted or remanded transgender prisoner will initially be placed in an establishment commensurate with their birth gender.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown welcomed the findings in a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee.

He said: “Firstly, I want to acknowledge my concern for victims of crime and the distress caused to them.  It is important that consideration of issues relating to the management of prisoners is measured and does not retraumatise victims or risk unintended consequences for transgender people or individuals in the care of SPS.

“All recommendations from the review have been accepted by Ms Medhurst as Chief Executive and will be progressed by SPS in collaboration with others as needed. As confirmed in the letter, SPS will factor the learning identified from this review into its Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment (GIGR) Policy Review, which is ongoing.

“Pending the outcome of the GIGR Policy Review, measures to provide reassurance as set out in Ms Medhurst’s letter will remain in place.

“I would like to acknowledge the work SPS has done in continuing to fulfil its operational responsibilities while completing the lessons learned review. SPS has considerable expertise in managing complex, high-profile and challenging individuals within their care and keeping people safe; and I commend their professionalism.”

In her letter, the SPS Chief Executive Teresa Medhurst reiterated that the SPS remained firmly committed to providing person-centred care to their entire population, including managing and identifying risks, which are not exclusive to transgender people in their care.

She added: “Staff in our establishments have demonstrated their long-standing expertise and strong track record in the management and care of an increasingly complex prison population.

“My priority remains the health, safety, and wellbeing of all people in our care, many of whom are the most marginalised in our society, and that of staff.”

Notes to editors

  • The Cabinet Secretary and Ms Medhurst have agreed to attend Justice Committee on the 22 February where members will be able to ask questions about the review
  • The entire urgent case review is not being shared by SPS as there is a significant amount of personal detail relating to the individual and personal data of staff which would not be appropriate to disclose.

Read a copy of the Letter to the Criminal Justice Committee from the Justice Secretary and the SPS urgent case review


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