The HM Prison Service in the United Kingdom has ended the controversial policy of housing male-to-female (MtF) transgenders in all-female prisons.
The new policy calls for MtF prisoners to be housed in separate wings over concerns for the safety of genetic female prisoners.
The policy change was enacted shortly after public uproar over the case of Karen White, a MtF prisoner and registered sex offender, who sexually assaulted female inmates after he was transferred to an all-female prison.
White was sentenced to life in prison for rape. The 52-year-old legal male, who was born Stephen Wood, was initially moved to an all-female prison after he claimed to identify as a woman.
Prosecutors say White used a “transgender persona” to gain access to vulnerable females.
According to The Times newspaper, justice minister Ed Argar confirmed that the government “revised” a previous guideline that called for MtF prisoners to “experience the [prison] system in the gender in which they identify.”
In a statement announcing the new policy change, Argar said, “We take the Karen White case very seriously.”
Argar confirmed that the “difficult decision” had already been made to transfer a “small number” of “high-risk” MtF transgenders back to male prisons.
Argar stressed that the government is trying to “strike the right balance” between women’s safety and transgender rights.
“New guidelines will be published shortly to ensure that [the policy] continues to strike the right balance between ensuring that all female prisoners are kept safe [and] that transgender prisoners have their rights respected,” Argar said.
Options under consideration include transgender-only prison wings to house MtF prisoners.
Public debate in the UK has grown as feminists and lesbians sound the alarm on the issue of women’s safety in female-only spaces.
Feminists in particular are calling for greater protection for genetic females as the government considers a new law that will allow people to self-identify without the need for medical intervention, such as hormones or sex reassignment surgery.
The new law is being fiercely opposed by feminists and lesbians who fear that giving males the option to self-identify as women without medical intervention will expose genetic women and girls to increased danger from sexual predators in female-only spaces.
Nicola Williams, of Fair Play for Women, told The Times that the revision to housing transgender prisoners was “an admission that allowing males to self-identify as women and letting them into women’s spaces is dangerous”
The prison service admits it was a mistake to house White with female prisoners.
A spokesman said, “We apologize sincerely for the mistakes which were made in this case. We work to manage all prisoners, including those who are transgender, sensitively and in line with the law. [But] we are clear that the safety of all prisoners must be our absolute priority.”