How many males are held in women’s prisons?
The question of how many males are held in women’s prisons is an important one. One would think that the known risks when males are held in women’s prisons would mean that this piece of information would be easy to find out. One would think that those in charge of prisons would want to know this piece of information.
Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly depending on how you view these matters) it is impossible to say how many males are held in women’s prisons. This is because a male with a Gender Recognition Certificate which states that he is legally a woman is recorded in all records and data as a woman and as female. This means that males with a GRC who are held in women’s prisons are effectively hidden: they don’t show up as male or as transgender in any records. They won’t show up on any Freedom of Information requests either, as the data used to answer these requests will have recorded these males as women. Data collection throughout the Criminal Justice System is significantly compromised by this policy of recording males with a GRC (and in some cases males without a GRC) as women and as female. You can read about that at When males are recorded as women.
Only those males who do not have a GRC and are housed in the female estate can be counted, meaning that the total number of males held in women’s prisons is forever unknown and unknowable. Indeed, the Ministry of Justice acknowledges this and is seemingly fully aware that their own guidelines on the management of transgender prisoners ensure the impossibility of accurate data collection.
The MoJ produces an annual report, HMPPS Offender Equalities Annual Report, relating to prisons in England and Wales, which reports on key trends for Protected Characteristics. The most recent report is for the years 2018/19 and was published in November 2019.
Section Two reports on transgender prisoners (p. 14-15). However these data are acknowledged in the Report to be incomplete because the only data included are those on:
those individuals known within prison to be currently living in, or are presenting in, a gender different to their sex assigned at birth and who have had a case conference […]
Prisoners who have already transitioned and have a full Gender Recognition Certificate are excluded from this dataset.
The Report concludes that:
The figures give an estimate of the number of transgender prisoners and are likely to underestimate the true number.
According to the Report, in 2019, there were 163 prisoners in England and Wales recorded as transgender who had also had a local transgender case board. Of these, 129 recorded their ‘legal gender’ as male. Remember this does not include anyone with a GRC, so this number is an underestimation.
Just over 50% of the 121 prisons in England and Wales reported that they had had at least one transgender inmate. Thirty-four transgender prisoners were held in women’s prisons. One third of these appear to be male, but the confusing presentation of the data mean that more than this may be male. Again, these figures exclude those with a GRC.
How many males are held in women’s prisons in Scotland?
There are no routinely collected data published on the number of transgender prisoners held in Scottish prisons, nor whether they are accommodated in the male or female estates. Some data are available as a result of FOIA requests and parliamentary questions. The most recent figures were provided in response to a series of parliamentary questions lodged by Liam Kerr MSP on 06/01/2020 and answered on 20/01/2020. These answers indicated that:
• There were 11 transgender prisoners
• 1 of these was a transgender prisoner of female sex who was held in female estate
• 10 of these were transgender prisoners of male sex
• 7 transgender prisoners of male sex had at some point requested accommodation in the female estate, and 4 of these were currently housed there. 2 of the 3 who were now housed in the male estate had previously been housed in the female estate but had requested transfer to men’s prison.
• 3 transgender prisoners of male sex had never requested to be housed in female estate.
Although the SPS draws no meaningful distinction between prisoners who have obtained a GRC and those who have not, it is unclear whether the above figures include transgender prisoners with a GRC. Ministry of Justice and HM Prisons and Probation Service policy relating to England and Wales states in respect of transgender prisoners of the male sex who have obtained a GRC that they are recorded as women/female in all cases. This means that these transgender prisoners are not included in the ‘transgender’ data. It is reasonable to assume that SPS also adopts this policy. It is likely, therefore, that these figures undercount the true number of transgender prisoners.
The female prison population at around 385 prisoners has been stable since 2013 and represents around 5% of the total prison population in Scotland.
Update on numbers: December 2020
Freedom of Information request FOI200615022 provides further information about the number of transgender prisoners in England and Wales, including by offence category.
The women’s rights organisation Fair Play for Women has reported on these data here:
The key findings Fair Play report are:
• There are 163 transgender prisoners in England and Wales
• Almost 50% have at least one conviction for a sexual offence
• The pattern of offending for males who identify as transgender does not reflect the female pattern of offending (3% of women in prison in England and Wales have been sentenced for sexual offences)
• The pattern of offending for males who identify as transgender is at least as high as that for men in prison (17% of men in prison in England and Wales have been sentenced for sexual offences)
If we look at the raw data we can determine the following:
• There are 129 males who identify as transgender held in the male estate
• Of these, 57% have at least 1 conviction for sexual offences
• The total number of sexual offences committed by males who identify as transgender is 134
• The total number of sexual offences against children committed by males who identify as transgender is 63
• There are 23 females who identify as transgender in the female estate
• Previous research by Fair Play indicates that there are 0 females who identify as transgender in the male estate
• These figures indicate that there are 11 males who identify as transgender being held in the female estate in England and Wales.
• As with all data, these figures exclude prisoners who have a GRC: males with a GRC are recorded as female/women and females with a GRC are recorded as male/men. This means that the total number of males held in the female estate will be greater than this.