Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Human rights and transgender prisoners

I am all in favour of a more flexible and tolerant approach to transgender people, including taking all reasonable measures to protect transgender prisoners from being abused by other prison inmates, provided that approach is applied with common sense and with consideration for the needs of other vulnerable people.

The case of a prisoner who as Martin Ponting was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1995 for raping two girls while he was a man, raises very troubling issues.

Ponting was initially sent to serve his sentence at the maximum security prison at HMP Whitemoor.

However, this prisoner then adopted the name Jessica Winfield, was given gender reassignment surgery tbrough the NHS, and transferred to the women-only prison, HMP Bronzefield.

Winfield then had to be segregated from other prisoners at HMP Bronzefield, though "a source close to the situation," unquote, told the Independent newspaper that reports in other parts of the press that this was for inappropriate advances to other prisoners were not true.

There would clearly have been safeguarding issues whether Ponting/Winfield had remained at Whitemoor or been moved to Bronzefield. It is the responsibility of the prison service to protect prisoners from each other and in either case it would not have been straightforward to do so.

Nevertheless I do not find it acceptable that a prisoner who has been convicted of sexual offences against women sufficiently serious as to justify a life sentence, should be moved to a women's prison, especially when that prisoner was previously regarded as dangerous enough to require a place in a maximum security prison.

I don't write this because I have a problem with trans people but because I have a problem with someone who has harmed women being put in a women's prison.

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