SPS Policy for the Management of Transgender People in Custody

SPS Policy for the Management of Transgender People in Custody

In late 2019, SPS committed to review its Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment Policy for those in our Custody (2014). The introduction of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill and the case of transgender prisoner, Isla Bryson, brought the policy to wider attention and became more politicised than it had been previously.

It was criticised by some for foregrounding transgender rights over the rights of those accommodated alongside and working with transgender prisoners. Much of the criticism was focused around issues of safety and the policy’s interaction with equality legislation. In light of the debate, interim admission arrangements were introduced which meant that no transgender woman with a history of violence against women and girls (VAWG) could be housed in the female prison estate. This included instances where transgender women could be held in segregation in women’s prisons during a period of individualised risk assessment, as in the Isla Bryson case.

On 5 December 2023 SPS published its new policy: SPS Policy for the Management of Transgender People in Custody. An operational policy for SPS Staff (2023) which comes into effect on 26 February 2024. 

The new policy is considerably shorter than its predecessor, which included more detailed explanations of terminology and processes specific to transgender people, and which appeared to be targeted at both internal and external audiences. The new policy largely avoids this by introducing a separate internal Operational Guidance Document. This internal ‘policy in practice’ document covers various topics including admissions; decisions around the accommodation of those convicted of violence against women and girls (VAWG); body-searching; and transitioning whilst in custody. The new policy is also accompanied by a summary of the review process; an Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessment; a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment; and a Data Protection Impact Assessment.

Category Prisons