4 Mar 2019

First United Kingdom transgender prison unit to open

12:02 pm on 4 March 2019

The United Kingdom's first prison unit for transgender inmates will open this week, the Ministry of Justice has said.

prison generic

The UK's first prison unit for transgender inmates will initially cater for three offenders who were born male but have since changed gender. Photo: 123RF

The wing, within a women's prison in south London, will initially cater for three transgender women.

Officials say the three prisoners, who have Gender Recognition Certificates, will not have access to the other women at HMP Downview, in Sutton.

The Ministry of Justice said prisoner safety was "our biggest concern".

The move comes after the case of Karen White, a transgender prisoner, who sexually assaulted two women while on remand at New Hall jail in Wakefield.

White, who identifies as a woman, was described by a judge as a "predator" who was a danger to women and children.

She was given a life sentence for sexual offences.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "Prisoner safety is our biggest concern and any decisions we take will seek to best manage the risks posed by each offender.

"The wider management of transgender offenders is a highly sensitive issue which poses unique and complex challenges and we are determined to get it right.

"That's why we are reviewing the way we manage all transgender offenders."

They added that the work was ongoing.

HMP Downview has been a women's prison since 2001.

It closed for three years for refurbishment, reopening in 2016 with capacity for 355 inmates, and is currently building up its population.


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs