Scottish prison bosses insist on rules in place to end abuse of gender recognition reforms
PRISON bosses don’t expect to be inundated with transgender inmates getting a gender recognition certificate if new laws facilitating this are rolled out.
A senior prisons official told MSPs investigating the Scottish Government’s gender recognition proposals that the service would be able to weed out people seeking to abuse the reforms.
Under current Scottish Prison Service (SPS) regulations, the accommodation of trans prisoners is decided on a case-by-case basis, with a number of factors – including the safety of fellow prisoners – being considered before a decision is made. socket.
The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill would allow a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) – a document that changes the holder’s legal sex – to be provided without a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria being required. necessary.
The bill would also reduce the time it takes for candidates to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months, with an additional three-month cooling-off period, and see the minimum age for a candidacy drop from 18 to 16.
The plans are backed by all Holyrood parties except the Scottish Conservatives.
Opponents have claimed the process could be abused by predatory men, putting the safety of women in the prison realm at risk – but MSPs have been told that obtaining a GRC is not the only factor used to determine where people are spending their time in custody, while risk assessments are in place.
James Kerr, deputy chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, told Holyrood’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee that the procedures ensure the safety of prisoners.
He told MSPs that there are currently only 16 transgender prisoners in Scotland – with 75% of trans men held in women’s prisons and trans women being split 50/50 across the male and female prison estate.
Tory MP Pam Gosal pointed out that the Scottish Prison Service is currently reviewing its gender identity and sex reassignment policy, which she says could “also give priority status to GRC holders”.
She said: ‘Those who oppose the bill believe that by removing the medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, getting a GRC will be much easier for inmates. Thus, the number of those who have a GRC and therefore have the right to be detained in the women’s domain will probably increase.
“Let me be clear about this – it’s about balancing transgender rights with the safety of the female prison population – protecting them from bad faith actors. It’s about be fair to all.
“Do you think a fair way to perhaps reassure inmates would be to make an amendment to the bill to say that the RCMP is not affected in prison allowances?”
But Mr Kerr said it was not up to him to say whether the bill should be amended, stressing that “the RCMP, for most people, will be a significant event in life”.
He added: “Since ours is an approach that takes a multidisciplinary open case conferencing approach, it will best achieve its ends when we get the full commitment of the person concerned.
“So providing clear acknowledgment of their declared RCMP status would ensure that we do.
“Currently, we don’t see this as a major impact for us. 16 people against 7,409 – and I predict that this year we would see in the region perhaps more than 15,000 people passing through our prisons on a daily basis.
“While there has been an increase in the number of people seeking help with transgender issues, we don’t believe this has a significant operational impact for us.”
Asked if the service was ready if more prisoners got an RCM, he said officials were ‘ready to respond’ but acknowledged it was ‘difficult to predict’ whether more people would get an RCM. certificate.
SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor, asked Mr Kerr about some of the concerns raised about ‘people applying for GRC for untoward reasons’, including to ‘perhaps increase the likelihood of being in another prison setting’.
He added: ‘Do you think your procedures and policies in place right now are strong to deal with this scenario?
Mr Kerr said ‘applying risk assessments to how we care for and manage people in custody is a well-trodden path for the Scottish Prison Service’.
He added: “There is good experience and expertise in a range of professions that actually make these decisions.
“Could people try to use a GRC for nefarious purposes? Yes, that is a possibility.
“But the RCMP is just one aspect of the consideration that we would give to the care, to the placement of this person in custody.”
He added that “risk assessment is not an exact science”.
Mr Kerr said: ‘This is a judgment call based on the information and facts available to us at the time.
“But it’s a well-trodden path for the SPS and we’re using it in a number of ways in terms of placing and managing people in prison.”