Should transwomen be allowed in women's prisons?

So in the UK recently there was a bit of a furore (whipped up by a political dispute between the Scottish and UK parliaments) about a convicted rapist (with male genitalia) identifying as a woman and therefore being sent to a women’s prison.

My position on this quite simple: in my view, the issue here is preventing assaults of any kind occurring in prisons, not keeping different genders segregated according to their genitalia. There can be no logic to the latter, otherwise we should be sending gay male rapists to women’s prisons, and women with a history of violence against (only) other women to men’s prisons. And indeed, in this specific case the rapist was kept segregated from other prisoners, so the latter were not at risk.

I believe this specific issue has been hijacked (not just here but in all sorts of other contexts) by transphobes under the guise of women’s rights. Or am I missing something?

When did this happen, who did it happen to, and where was this person sent? It would help to have such details to identify appropriate sources and properly understand the situation. Basically, to have a cite.

here are some details

Honestly, I’d go even further yet and say all prisons should be co-ed. I’d read before that the presence of women around is a major stabilizing or moderating effect on the behavior of men. There are definitely prisons outside the US that do it this way to good effect.

So trans, straight, cis, should all mix together.

I considered providing a link (and don’t mind at all that one has been) but I refrained because I’m more interested in the general proposition of the thread title, rather than discussing specific cases.

Yeah, this. The logic behind segregated prison facilities is not that women are intrinsically entitled to reside in the company of women, but rather that prisoners are entitled to a modicum of personal safety and that female people are more easily given that if segregated from the male population.

The long-known fact that segregating the sexes does not provide the modicum of safety needed for transgender people, not to mention gay people and gender atypical people of other sorts, indicates that the prison system needs to step up its game; there is no excuse for incarceration to include such a high risk of personal violence.

Prisons should be mixed sex and made safe enough that the situation doesn’t incur a risk of violence towards women (/female people).

It’s a bad idea to lock women up with rapists.

I completely agree. Which would you say is a more effective way of achieving this: segregating prisoners by sex (where ‘sex’ is defined as predominant physical genitalia, for the sake of argument), or creating an environment in which rapists don’t have the opportunity to assault others?

It seems to me that trans women rapists should be treated the same way as cisgender women rapists. And someone who would rape a trans woman should be treated the same way as someone who would rape anyone else.

It’s not like it’s the genitalia that enables rape.

For over two years the max security prison I worked in had both men and women inmates in it. It caused a lot of chaos and disruption. Extra staff was needed to ensure safely all around, inmate movement was problematic, etc. It was a happy day when the decision was made to move all the ladies to the women’s prison. Can you point me to the studies that state co-ed prisons stabilize and moderate inmate behavior? That certainly wasn’t my experience.

As to the OP: Proper inmate placement is a thorny subject which depends on so many factors, and that applies to all inmates, not just the trans ones. I’d fear for trans men in the male prisons I’ve worked in. I’ve cared for trans women in male institutions and some of them would have benefitted from and been safe and NOT a threat in female institutions, but some definitely would have been problematic there. It’s a complicated question with no one correct answer, in my humble opinion.

Of course transwomen shouldn’t be allowed in women’s prisons. The very idea is completely absurd.

Thank you for the first-hand perspective, exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for. It’s certainly complicated, but I think your point about “extra staff was needed to ensure safety” is a key one. Isn’t it just the case that governments tend to be unwilling to fund sufficient prison staff to ensure safety for all, in general? If they were, it could be of assistance in addressing the specific issue of trans prisoners.

I would say that to the first approximation, “creating a [prison] environment in which rapists don’t have the opportunity to assault others” is an impossibility. You might with enormous intrusion on the privacy of every prisoner - including the vulnerable people we’re trying to help who might be harmed by this level of surveillance - get the risk down to “really quite low” but the stake for that bet is not yours to put up.

You’re right to say that sex segregation is not sufficient to ensure safety; that is not the same as saying that it is not necessary.

With respect to transmen and transwomen prisoners, a blanket policy in either direction (i.e. we always imprison people according to identified gender or we always imprison people according to sex assigned at birth) will only guarantee that somebody is put in an unsafe situation at some point; case by case assessments taking into account the safety and dignity of the individual, their future prison-mates and prison staff, coupled with a regular review process is the best - but not a perfect - way forward.

Why is it absurd?

I think the last paragraph of your post goes on to acknowledge that it’s not necessary in many cases (and QtM posted much the same thing). I suppose my wider point is (and one I think I’ve made on this board before) - let’s not infringe the rights and wellbeing of the vast majority of the trans population who do not violently attack others, because of the actions of a tiny minority of that population, when that can be more effectively dealt with in other ways.

One difficult in discussing this issue is that the basic term “trans woman” can describe a huge range of people. A trans woman can be a person who has been transgender from a young age, has been through some medical transitioning, has conformed to societal norms for women for years, people in their life refer to them as a woman, etc. A trans woman can also be someone who has presented as male for decades and then one day proclaims “I identify as a woman”. Both of those types of people are trans women, but there will be significantly different issues for them going into a women’s prison. Since “trans woman” does not clearly identify anything about the person other than they were assigned male at birth and now identifies as a woman, there needs to be more qualifications about the person other than they are a trans woman.

If we’re talking about the typical trans woman who generally conforms to women norms of society, then it’s probably okay for them to be in a women’s prison. But if it’s a person who has been male their whole life and suddenly proclaims they are a woman on the day of their sentencing, then that’s probably not okay. They are both trans women, but clearly there are significant differences between those two kinds of people. Since this issue would affect criminals, we couldn’t just trust their own statements. They would lie to get better treatment. There would need to be some kind of standards where a court decides that a person is sincere enough and conforms to women’s norms enough to be in a women’s prison. I think a court would need to decide that from an objective standpoint, the person is similar enough to typical women that they would fit in in a women’s prison. The fact that someone was assigned male at birth should not be a blocking factor for them to go to a women’s prison. If someone has lived their life as a woman and it’s clear that they generally conform to the norms of women in that society, then treating them as women for incarceration is not really all that problematic.

Transwomen are biologically male. Women in prison, especially those who’ve experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse at the hands of men, shouldn’t have to tolerate being incarcerated with biological males. It’s as simple as that. Doesn’t matter if they’re rapists or shoplifters, especially since, if you allow the shoplifters in, it becomes much more difficult to argue that the rapists should be kept out.

It’s true that transwomen are more likely to be assaulted in male prisons. So are effeminate gay men, so are snitches, so are members of certain gangs. Are we going to put them in with the women, too? Why is the safety of transwomen and other at risk male prisoners women prisoners’ problem?

If protective custody in male prisons is good enough for other at risk male prisoners then it’s good enough for transwomen. I see no reason to jeopardise the safety or dignity of women prisoners to accommodate them.

Should they have to tolerate being incarcerated with transmen?

Why? Are all biological males a threat to women?

How does accommodating non-violent transwomen jeopardise the safety or dignity of other women prisoners?

Advocating for more money to be spent on prisons does not tend to get political candidates elected. Promising to be “tough on crime” does. The electorate in this country generally wants more and more of “those bad people” to be locked up and forgotten about.

But “those bad people” are our parents, brothers, sisters, children, extended family, friends, etc. And more than 95% of them will return to society one day. But getting them the services they truly need while incarcerated is usually a fight over money.