No man should be in a women’s prison

Trans ideology has blinded the prison service to its most fundamental responsibilities.

Ian Acheson

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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Two hundred years ago, British prison reformer Elizabeth Fry successfully campaigned to pass the 1823 Gaols Act. This legislation finally separated male and female offenders and ended endemic sexual exploitation in prisons.

Were Fry alive today she would have been horrified to watch trans activists try to undo her work and allow predatory men to exploit vulnerable women. But she would also have been pleased to see the more recent pushback in England, not least from groups such as Keep Prisons Single Sex.

Their campaigning has been having a real impact. Earlier this year, then justice secretary Dominic Raab introduced new rules prohibiting the housing of trans-identifying inmates in women’s prisons if they have male genitalia or have been convicted of a sexual offence. The rules also apply to trans prisoners with gender-recognition certificates. And last week, women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch suggested that this current policy might become even more strict.

But, while in England good progress has been made, the story is much more bleak north of the border. In Scotland, penal progressives have been trampling all over Fry’s legacy. She would have found it inconceivable that Isla Bryson, a male-bodied convicted rapist, was able to enter an all-female prison prior to sentencing back in January.

Bryson was later returned to a male prison after public outcry. But the fact that the move happened at all was a travesty. This is precisely the sort of barbaric practice the 1823 Gaols Act was designed to end. Yet, two centuries on, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and SNP government, drunk on an identitarian ideology that has trashed women’s rights, are seemingly intent on keeping the gates open for predators.

Earlier this month, the SPS published new rules that, once they come into force next February, will require that prison staff receive compelling evidence that a transwoman prisoner is not a threat to female inmates. If the evidence is convincing enough, that trans prisoner may be moved to an all-women estate – even if they have male genitalia or have been convicted of sexual offences.

The SPS’s new rules may be an improvement on previous SNP policy, which allowed trans inmates to be housed in whichever prison matched their ‘gender identity’. But it’s a minimal improvement. The number of biologically male inmates in women’s prisons should be zero. Women in prison are much more likely to be victims of physical, emotional and sexual exploitation by men. And the data we have, which are always hard to lever out of bureaucracies, point to a disproportionate number of sex offenders in cohorts of trans-identified male prisoners in England.

I’ve worked with male sex offenders in prison. They come from all walks of life, but they have one common denominator – their determination to insinuate themselves into environments where they can control, exploit and victimise women and girls. It is staggering that the Scottish state has, in effect, colluded with these people. It was only the public outrage following the Isla Bryson case that forced the SPS to come up with new rules anyway – not common sense or decency.

The SPS’s new rules provide yet more evidence of just how ideologically compromised public services have become across the UK when it comes to women’s rights. These rules have more caveats than a politician’s promise, and will still potentially allow male sex offenders to have access to women.

The safeguards promised in the SPS policy are utterly hollow. There must be ‘compelling evidence that [trans prisoners] do not present an unacceptable risk of harm to those in the women’s prison’. Read the weasel words. What, exactly, is an acceptable risk? Just a light bit of sexual assault? And you can rest assured that ‘compelling evidence’ in favour of allowing gender-addled sex offenders into women’s prisons will be much easier to come by when the whole system is dominated by an SNP-fuelled culture that compels us to believe a man is a woman merely on his say-so. I have absolutely no confidence in SPS officials’ ability to prioritise the safety of women above the rights of men who think being a woman is a costume. Or a disguise.

How is it possible that the SPS cannot see the obvious risk this new policy will continue to pose to women? The only conclusion to be drawn is that Scottish politicians and bureaucrats care more about performative virtue than the safety of some of the most vulnerable people in society.

There is a simple and sensible way of rebalancing the competing rights of a tiny number of trans offenders and the thousands of women who don’t want men sharing a space with them that they have no control over. The prison service has dealt with at-risk prisoners for years, through the use of Vulnerable Prisoner Units (VPUs). These provide special protection and isolation for prisoners who might otherwise be exploited. Transwomen could easily be accommodated in a special VPU in a male prison. This would allow them to serve their sentence in safety and dignity, which they are of course entitled to. It would also eliminate the spike in biologically male offenders who purport to discover their true gender identity after arrest or conviction and who exploit credulous officials and processes for nefarious reasons.

The conflation of sex and gender within our prisons has caused a dangerous mess. Prisons are saturated in risk, particularly of sexual assault. If we continue to bow to trans ideology, there is no way to create safe, decent and purposeful custody for anyone, let alone the women still placed at risk by this crazy policy. The message to women in Scotland’s prisons is clear: you simply don’t matter. Elizabeth Fry must be turning in her grave.

Ian Acheson is a former senior civil servant at the Home Office.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK


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