Transgender prisoners: Ministry of Justice to review care

Robert Steele and Vikki Thompson Image copyright Robert Steele
Image caption The review follows the death of Vikki Thompson in an all-male jail

The care of transgender prisoners in England and Wales is to be reviewed after two inmate deaths, the Ministry of Justice has said.

Justice Secretary Michael Gove ordered the review to ensure the care of such offenders is "fit for purpose".

Vikki Thompson, 21, was found dead in her cell in November and Joanne Latham, 38, died earlier this month. Both were placed in all-male prisons.

The MoJ said concerns had been reported over the current rules.

'Balance' needed

The National Offender Management Service is already reviewing prison instructions which state transgender prisoners are normally placed according to their legally-recognised gender.

The new review will look across all areas of criminal justice, to see if improvements could be made in prisons, probation and youth justice services.

Justice Minister Caroline Dinenage said the management of transgender offenders needs to "provide an appropriate balance between the needs of the individual and the responsibility to manage risk and safeguard the wellbeing of all prisoners."

Inmate Ms Thompson, who was at HMP Leeds, had said she would kill herself if she was sent to a male prison.

Ms Latham was found hanging in her cell at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes.

'Complex and sensitive'

Ms Dinenage said the management and care of transgender prisoners was "a complex issue and one that the government takes very seriously".

While adults are usually placed according to their legal gender, their situations "are often complex and sensitive", she added.

"That is why prisons exercise local discretion on the placement of those who live, or propose to live, in the gender other than the one assigned at birth," she said. "In such cases, senior prison management will review the individual circumstances, in consultation with medical and other experts.

"However, we have received a number of representations expressing concern that the present system doesn't sufficiently address the needs of transgender prisoners."

The new review, expected to report back early in the new year, will draw up new guidelines for the treatment of transgender offenders.

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