The Chief Ombudsman is concerned that under the Department of Corrections policy of housing prisoners, transgender inmates are at risk of sexual assault.
Prisoners are currently placed according to their birth gender, unless they have had all the surgeries necessary for complete gender reassignment.
An Ombudsman report on the prison health system says the policy does not treat trans prisoners with dignity.
Corrections Department acting national health manager Bronwyn Donaldson says all prisoners are treated with decency and does not intend to review its policy.
Labour’s Justice and Corrections Spokesperson, Charles Chauvel, and Health Spokesperson, Maryan Street say it is not good enough for the Corrections Department to say they will not change their policy with respect to the imprisonment of transgender prisoners.
“The plea from the Ombudsman, Beverley Wakem, for Corrections to detain prisoners according to their self-identified gender identity, not the identity listed on their birth certificate, should be heard and implemented,” says Charles Chauvel.
“It is both unjust and dangerous for transgender inmates to be put at such high risk of sexual and physical assault in prison, simply because Corrections cannot move with the times and recognise the significance of gender identity,” he said.
“The Human Rights Commission’s 2007 report To Be Who I Am, explicitly refers to the human rights of transgender prisoners and documents the risks posed to them by detaining them in an inappropriate way. This is a human rights issue, that prisoners be treated with dignity as human beings and it is clear that transgender prisoners often are not.”
“The risks to mental and physical health from detaining transgender prisoners in prisons which are not appropriate to their gender identity are significant and well known,” says Maryan Street, Labour’s Health Spokesperson.
“Assaults, especially sexual assaults on transgender prisoners whose sexual reassignment is not complete, are commonplace and predictable,” she said.
“These compound the risk of self-harm, to which these people are already vulnerable. It is incumbent that Corrections revisits their policy in order to treat these prisoners humanely. Harm to these prisoners will be the responsibility of the Corrections Department if they do not,” she said.