PROTECTING the health, safety, and wellbeing of all people in Scotland’s prisons is at the heart of SPS’s newly published Policy for the Management of Transgender People in Custody (2023).

The policy outlines how transgender people will be first admitted into custody, where they are accommodated during their sentence, and how they are managed.

It sets out an individualised approach which ensures that any transgender woman with a history of violence against women and girls (VAWG), who presents a risk to women and girls, will not be placed in the women’s estate.

It is an approach which supports the rights of transgender people, and the welfare of others in custody, as well as SPS staff.

Where SPS has insufficient information about an individual who is arriving into custody, they will be admitted in accordance with their sex at birth. SPS also retains the ability to admit and accommodate individuals with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) in accordance with their sex at birth, if it is considered necessary to support people’s safety and wellbeing.

Only when staff have enough information to reach a decision that a trans individual can be safely accommodated will they be placed in an establishment which matches their affirmed gender.

The policy also takes an individualised approach to searching, which allows for individuals to be searched by officers of their affirmed gender or their sex assigned at birth, if it is necessary to keep the individual or staff safe.

In particular, the policy sets out:

•             Detailed operational processes that will manage a transgender individual’s journey throughout their time in custody.

•             A detailed case conference process, which balances robust assessment with ensuring the rights and wellbeing of transgender people are supported.

•             Searching arrangements, that will safeguard everyone involved in the process.

The new policy has been developed following extensive engagement, including input from experts in violence against women, interviews with men and women in custody, people who are transgender and those who are not staff with experience of managing transgender people in custody in Scotland and internationally, and a broad range of community organisations.

The Policy is published today and will come into force on 26 February, 2024, to allow for all necessary training and planning to be put in place.

The interim arrangements for admission introduced earlier in the year, which mean transgender individuals are admitted to prison based on their sex at birth, and no transgender woman with a history of violence against women and girls is transferred from the male to female estate, will stay in place until then.

Teresa Medhurst, Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service, said: “Every single individual in the care of SPS is treated with dignity and respect, with their rights upheld, and any risks carefully managed. OFFICIAL

“Our staff have an excellent track record in working with our transgender population, and I know that will continue under this new policy.”

Justice Secretary Angela Constance said: “This updated policy protects the safety and welfare of staff, those in their care and the rights of transgender people. It makes clear that if a transgender woman meets the service’s violence against women and girls criteria they will be admitted and accommodated in the male estate.

“SPS has considerable expertise, as well as a duty of care for the management of people in their custody, and this policy upholds its responsibilities to deliver safe, secure and suitable services for all.”