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  • Topic: TS and the Criminal justice System

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    • October 10, 2010 5:18 PM BST
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      Trans people may come into contact with the criminal justice system

      As victims of crime (in particular, hate crime), witnesses or as suspects
      or offenders.
      UK research indicates that around 62% to 73% of trans people have
      experienced harassment or violence because they were identified as
      trans. This included verbal abuse, threatening behaviour, physical
      assault and sexual assault. Poorer trans people were more likely to
      experience violence. Some research29 also suggests that trans people
      are over-represented in prisons but it is not clear why.

      All criminal justice agencies need to ensure that they consider the needs
      of trans people regardless of whether they are victims, witnesses or a
      perpetrator of crime.
      It would be particularly important for criminal justice agencies to ensure
      that their policies and practices comply with their equality and human
      rights obligations with regard to:
      • Addressing trans people appropriately to ensure that it is always done
      using people’s acquired or preferred gender, for example ensuring
      that police officers taking witness statements have clear guidelines
      on how best to address a person who is ambiguously gendered.
      • Communicating with others in relation to a case involving trans
      people to ensure that their right to privacy is maintained at all times,
      for example when considering disclosing information to other criminal
      justice agencies, when communicating with family members and
      employers, when reporting a case to the media, or when talking to
      other prisoners.
      • Searching trans people in a dignified way, for example if it is possible,
      to accommodate the detainee’s request to be searched by an officer
      of their choice.
      • Facilitating for trans people to continue or start the gender
      reassignment process, for example allowing trans people to attend
      court in appropriately gendered dress without comment, ensuring
      prompt access to medical services to maintain continuity of gender
      reassignment treatment.
      • Housing trans suspects or offenders to ensure that they are not put
      at risk of transphobic hate crime and that their right to privacy is
      maintained at all times, for example ensuring that trans people are
      placed in a bail hostel facility appropriate to their gender role or
      allowing personal bodily privacy when showering for those serving
      a custodial sentence, while avoiding their complete isolation.
      Trans people as victim or witness of crime
      As the Equality and Human Rights Commission Trans Research Review
      highlights, despite the research suggesting that a high proportion of
      trans people experience hate crime, much of it may go unreported.
      Underreporting seems to arise from a lack of trust in police or from the
      fear that pursuing a prosecution may necessitate the disclosure of one’s
      gender identity, which may have negative consequences.

      One of the main issues faced by trans people when interacting with
      the police as victims or witnesses of crime relates to disclosing their
      previous name as it also discloses their previous gender. It is important
      for police forces to have clear guidelines on how to do this in a sensitive
      way, for example by ensuring that such questions are not asked
      in public.
      Police forces also need to consider the need to have clear policies in
      place with regard to addressing trans people, particularly those trans
      people who look ambiguously gendered.

      The concerns that trans people have regarding privacy and dignity are
      heightened further if involved as witnesses or victims of crime in the
      prosecution process. For example, many will simply not report that they
      have been victims of transphobic hate crime as the nature of the crime
      would involve outing themselves as trans. If they are living permanently
      in their preferred gender role, they may well be afraid of their
      neighbours, employer, faith community or others discovering they are
      trans. If they are not living permanently in their preferred gender role and
      have not disclosed their status to their partners, spouses or employer,
      they may be afraid of losing their home, their marriage or their job.
      Trans people can also feel particularly vulnerable in appearing in court
      as witnesses or victims of crime. Some fear that this might place them at
      risk of future harassment and discrimination from others in their
      community (from the local journalists to their neighbours or employers).
      Others, particularly those who appear in court as victims of trans hate
      crime might fear reprisals from their attacker and/or associates.
      To assist with fair treatment, the interests of justice and the best quality
      of evidence, prosecutors increasingly are using special measures and
      courts are placing reporting restrictions on disclosure of name and
      personal details of trans people in court.

      Trans people may also fear that officers in the criminal justice
      system and in the judiciary may be unsympathetic to their personal
      circumstances and regard them as responsible for experiencing
      transphobic hate crime, that is: ‘you have caused the problem because
      you are a trans person’. It is important for public autho rities to find ways
      to build trust among their local trans community. In recent years, many
      police forces in Great Britain have engaged with their local trans
      community to this effect – for example by involving trans people in
      independent advisory groups.

      Trans people as suspects or offenders
      Trans suspects and offenders also experience issues within the criminal
      justice system. These range from not being housed in the appropriate
      prisons in terms of gender, which can greatly affect their personal safety,
      to experiencing breaches of their basic rights to privacy and dignity.
      A trans person who is arrested and put into custody whether in a police
      station or a remand unit will be extremely anxious about being searched
      by an officer of the wrong gender (for example a trans woman whose
      preferred or acquired gender is female being searched by a male officer)
      or one who is uncomfortable with being in close contact with a trans
      person. To avoid such issues, police and prison officers should follow
      clear guidelines on how to search trans people.

      On being placed on remand, or being convicted trans prisoners who
      have not taken with them any medication and a note from their doctor
      about their need for their hormone therapy may find that they have to
      wait several days without their hormone therapy before an appointment.
      Similarly those who do not disclose their trans status and their hormone
      therapy or surgery dates will find that appropriate information, including
      details of ongoing medication, does not follow them into the system at
      the start of their sentence, and consequently problems regarding
      housing and other issues will arise.
      Probation officers in England and Wales must prepare a post-sentence
      report to highlight any special needs that offenders may have, such as
      those associated with undergoing gender reassignment. Criminal Justice
      Social Workers in Scotland should also carry out post-sentence court
      social work interviews to identify urgent needs.

      There may be particular issues for trans people in prisons. As research
      suggests,32 trans prisoners who are pre-gender reassignment will almost
      certainly be incarcerated with people from their natal sex, and this may
      make it extremely difficult to continue living as their chosen gender. If
      they do attempt to, they make themselves vulnerable to bullying, sexual
      assault and violence. Furthermore, those receiving hormone therapy will
      be likely to have their treatment stopped, at least in the short term.
      In order to avoid such issues, a recent court case33 suggests that the
      prison service in England, Wales and Scotland must consider how best
      to house trans prisoners to ensure that the establishment they are
      placed in is suitable for their particular gender identity. For similar
      reasons, the probation service should also consider how best to house
      trans people released on parole and ensure that they are placed in a
      facility of appropriate gender role.
      Prison officers should also note that:

      Putting trans people in solitary should never be considered as a
      reasonable option to ensure their personal safety. In effect, human
      rights law would consider such approach as double punishment
      without cause, which exists solely because the prisoner’s trans status
      is inherently seen as a problem.
      • It is not appropriate to disclose a person’s trans status to others in
      custody as it could put this person at risk of violence.
      Stephens and Whittle34 attempted in 2001 to map out the needs of trans
      suspects and offenders within the criminal justice system. The tables
      they produced could be used as a starting point by criminal justice
      agencies in England, Scotland and Wales to assess the impact of their
      policies and practices on trans people.


      Cristine Jennifer Shye B.acc. BL (GS Admin) Tongue out

    • June 7, 2017 10:20 PM BST
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      Untitled title

      Thanks Crissie,


      This is a really good post and overall I think the prison system does this.  At least, this is what I have found in my establishment.  I think you will always get employees and guards who don't get it or deliberately don't want to understand.  But the prison will still try to adhere to the corect way of doing things, almost to spite the odd bad apple.


      Keep up the good work, I really enjoy your posts.





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