Tara Hudson (26) was jailed for 12 weeks after being convicted of assault. However she was incarcerated in all male HMP Bristol Prison.
Hudson was sent to prison on Friday last week after pleading guilty, at Bath Magistrates’ Court, to an assault by beating on 26 December last year.
Her plight was raised by her MP, Simon Howlett at the Transgender Inquiry meeting of the Women’s and Equality Select Committee that took place in Westminster today on which he sits.
Caroline Dinenage MP, Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice said she, “Couldn’t comment upon the individual details of this case.”, but went on to say she could discuss the matter, ‘…in general…’. She described the safety of any individual as, ‘fundamental’, described how a prisoner’s legal gender is determined by birth certificate or gender recognition certificate, and in the absence of such documentation how decisions are made on a ‘…case by case basis.’. She went on to say that this is not the end of the process and that, further discussions involving all stakeholders would take place upon arrival at prison.
She described how a prisoner perceived to be vulnerable in any way will be kept in a, ‘protected state’, away from other inmates.
This strongly implies that whilst Tara remains unjustly incarcerated in a male prison, she is safe from the terrible threat of derision, abuse, physical assault, rape or even murder that other inmates could subject her to were she in the general population.
In closing her statements on the topic, Caroline Dinenage stated, ‘We want to do more.’, in reference to the issues she had been discussing.
A petition calling for a Tara Hudson to serve a prison sentence in a female prison has attracted more than 15,000 signatures in 24 hours.
Her mother, Jackie Brooklyn, told the BBC that the prison sentence came as a “shock”.
“When they said they were taking her to [HMP Bristol at] Horfield I was horrified.
“I don’t think she’ll cope with it very well. She’s lived as a woman for so long. She is a woman.
“To be put into an all male prison, it’s like me being put into a male prison.”
A report published earlier this year found levels of violence at HMP Bristol had “risen sharply” and not enough was being done “to protect some vulnerable prisoners”.
The online petition, calling for Hudson to be transferred to a female jail, claims she “is in extreme danger of abuse, sexual violence, and even death”.
Transphobic hate is rife in prison, an is relatively understudied and poor documented. A 2007 study of California prisons found that “[s]exual assault is 13 times more prevalent among transgender inmates, with 59 percent reporting being sexually assaulted.”
These sexual assaults are often committed by guards, whose power over prisoners shields them from accountability. When prisoners assault transgender inmates, they are often aided and abetted by guards, who force trans women into prostitution. Gabriel Arkles of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project testified at a US Department of Justice hearing saying that “in these systems, corrections officers bring transgender women to the cell of male inmates and lock them in for the male inmate to have sex with.”
It is plainly obvious that whilst a transwoman can be incaarcerated in a male prison, the Ministry of Justice has an awful lot more to do.
Speaking with KaleidoScot, James Morton, of the Scottish Transgender Alliance (STA), said: “It’s disgraceful that the UK Ministry of Justice and the English Prison Service are disregarding Tara’s female gender identity and six years transitioned just because she hasn’t sorted out all her paperwork. The current legal gender recognition system callously places the most vulnerable trans people at greatest risk. Anyone who can’t afford the application fees, struggles with complicated forms or hasn’t obsessively collected and filed away all the right evidence throughout their transition, can end up falling foul of the current gender recognition system.”
Thanks to the work of the STA a similar case in Scotland would be very likely much better dealt by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS). The STA developed a policy and provided training to the SPS which ensures trans women like Tara would have been kept safe in the female estate even if they don’t have a gender recognition certificate.