Female prisoners’ views on transgender inmates in Scotland will be kept secret after the prison service blocked requests for a poll to be made public.
Critics accused the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) of silencing women’s voices after refusing to disclose their responses to a survey carried out as part of a review of its controversial transgender prisoner management policy.
The review of the policy was ongoing when rapist Isla Bryson, previously known as Adam Graham, was sent to Scotland’s only women’s jail following conviction in February last year. Bryson was later moved to a male jail following a huge outcry.
The results of the survey were requested under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. However, the SPS refused to disclose them, saying if they were made public, it could undermine the confidentiality of the women who took part.
The updated policy, which was finalised in December, still allows male-bodied inmates to be placed in female jails if they identify as women, under certain conditions.
Even after the Bryson controversy, the SPS has refused to follow the far tougher rules on trans prisoners which are in place in England.
SNP is demonstrating ‘pervasive secrecy’
Russell Findlay, the Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary, said the public was “surely entitled” to hear the views of women prisoners expected to share single-sex spaces with male-bodied inmates.
He said: “Personal or other sensitive information could be easily removed before publication of this important survey. Doing so might also help explain why the majority of women didn’t even respond.
“Across Scotland’s justice system and the wider public sector, we see increasing evidence of the SNP’s pervasive secrecy culture and this appears to be yet another example.”
Giving evidence to MSPs earlier this year, Theresa Medhurst, chief executive of the SPS, claimed women in custody were “very kind to and understanding of transgender individuals in our care”.
However, critics of her policy insist that women prisoners, who have often suffered violence at the hands of men, could be traumatised by the mere presence of male inmates in the female estate.
Kenny MacAskill, the former SNP justice secretary who now sits as an Alba Party MP, said the refusal to release the data “smacked of a cover-up”.
“This is entirely unacceptable,” he said. “An assessment can’t be made without being able to consider all sides of the argument and, in particular, the views of women prisoners who are most impacted.
“Anonymity can and should be given but the totality of what was said by women must be available.”