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?
The Scottish Prison Service does not appear to routinely collect data on the number of transgender prisoners held in Scottish prisons. Nevertheless, a number of Freedom of Information requests have been answered which provide some information. In April 2014, the SPS stated that 5 prisoners ‘with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment’ were held in Scottish prisons. In November 2017, the response to another FOI request stated that the number of prisoners who were ‘transgender’ now stood at 18: in 2016 there had been 8 and in 2015 there were 6. Looking at this trajectory, it is not unreasonable to assume that the number of ‘transgender’ prisoners in Scottish prisons is now significantly higher. Of course these figures do not differentiate between males and females, nor is information provided concerning how many ‘transgender’ prisoners are held in women’s prisons. As before, these figures do not include prisoners with a GRC.
The picture is confused and confusing. Record keeping now means that it is impossible to find out how many males are held in women’s prisons. For this reason we are not giving a number here. Data from the MoJ and Policy Frameworks for England and Wales and for Scotland clearly indicate that males are being held in women’s prisons. Further FOI requests may shed more light on how many males without a GRC are held in the female estate, but the total number of males held in women’s prisons in the UK will never be known. This is unacceptable.
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.