Write to your MP
An important thing you can do is to write to your MP.
If you don’t know who your MP is or how to contact her or him, you can find out on https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP. The current restrictions around COVID-19 mean that we suggest that you email, rather than sending a letter in the post.
Here are some suggested points to include. Please note that some points have variations according to whether you live in Scotland or in England and Wales.
1. I am concerned that the rights of women in prison to single-sex spaces, services and communal accommodation, as provided for in the Equality Act (2010) are not being met.
2. Schedule 3, paragraphs 26, 27 & 28 and Schedule 23, paragraph 3 of the Equality Act provide that males may be excluded from single-sex spaces, services and communal accommodation as a proportionate means to a legitimate aim where the activities that take place within that space and the reasonable expectation of female users of that space is such that they may object to the presence of a male. A male may be excluded even if he has the protected characteristic gender reassignment. He may be excluded notwithstanding the provisions in the Gender Recognition Act (2004) that enable a male, subsequent to meeting certain diagnostic and procedural criteria, to obtain legal recognition of acquired gender, in the form of a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), and to become ‘a legal woman’. That women require spaces that exclude all males is self-evident: single-sex spaces exist for reasons of safety, dignity and privacy.
3. (England and Wales): However, the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service Policy Framework The Care and Management of Individuals who are Transgender states otherwise. This policy framework states that males who have a GRC must be housed in the female estate, whilst males who identify as women but who do not have a GRC may be housed in the female estate, subject to the approval of a transgender case board.
(Scotland): However the Scottish Prison Service policy framework, Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment Policy for those in our Custody states otherwise. This policy framework states that males who identify as women are to be housed in the female estate as this will best serve their needs.
4. (England and Wales): This means that women in prison are housed with biological males. We know that this happens from data provided by the Ministry of Justice in their annual report HMPPS Offender Equalities Annual Report. Media reports also show that this is happening.
(Scotland): This means that women in prison are housed with biological males. We know that this happens from answers to Freedom of Information requests provided by the Scottish Prisons Service. Media reports also show that this is happening.
5. Women in prison are known to be particularly vulnerable. Many experience mental health problems and are at high risk of suicide and self-harm. Many have been the victims of violence and sexual violence at the hands of males, often going back to childhood.
6. It is accepted throughout the Criminal Justice System that female offenders respond best in female-only settings and services. Evidence consistently shows that these are the most effective places for them to tackle the issues surrounding their offending and reduce their offending going forwards.
7. I am concerned that housing male prisoners in the female prison estate causes understandable distress to women prisoners, puts women at risk and compromises their chances at rehabilitation.
8. Women in prison are entitled to single-sex spaces in the same way that all women are entitled to them. This right is provided for in law. Here, I note the statement by the Rt. Hon Elizabeth Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, on publication of the report Gender Recognition Act Analysis of Consultation Responses by the Government Equalities Office on 22 September 2020 and I am particularly pleased that the Government has restated its commitment to the provisions for single-sex spaces and services for women and girls as stated in the Equality Act.
9. (England and Wales): In consideration of this, I believe that Ministry of Justice and HM Prisons and Probation Service policy and practice must be brought in line with the provisions in the Equality Act.
(Scotland): In consideration of this, I believe that Scottish Prisons Service policy and practice must be brought in line with the provisions in the Equality Act.
10. (England and Wales): I am asking you to please write to the Minister for Prisons, Probation and Rehabilitation setting forth these concerns and asking that prisons policy is brought in line with the Equality Act to provide women in prison with single-sex spaces.
(Scotland): I am asking you to please write to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice setting forth these concerns and asking that prisons policy is brought in line with the Equality Act to provide women in prison with single-sex spaces.
11. I am asking you to please write to the Minister for Women and Equalities asking how the Government intends to ensure that prisons policy framework is brought in line with the Equality Act to provide women in prison with single-sex spaces.
12. I would welcome the opportunity to speak to you to discuss these issues further.
(Keep Prisons Single Sex can help and advise concerning this.)