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psychological harm Calls for transgender prisoner safety reform after two women locked in cells for 23 hours a day

A report said the two transgender women were living in “extremely isolated existence”

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The Irish Prison Service (IPS) has been urged to develop policies to ensure the safety of transgender prisoners after it emerged that two women were locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day.

A report published by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons, based on a visit to an Irish prison in April 2021, said the two transgender women were living in “extremely isolated existence” where they were separated from other inmates and misgendered by prison officers.

One of the women in the prison described her isolation as “mental torture” and the report states that going outside to the yard makes her feel “uncomfortable and alone.”

The inspection team said solitary confinement “causes psychological harm” to these prisoners.

The report said: “One of the women explained she does not go outside to the yard as she is uncomfortable and alone. She also described her isolation as ‘mental torture.’

“A typical day was described by one of the women as constituting the following: ‘I come out, get food, make a call, that’s it, nothing. I’m locked up after one hour and that’s it.’

“She further described the regime as ‘this is hell, and worse than hell actually.’ She explained that she felt as though the approach to imprisonment of transgender people in the prison was ‘out of sight, out of mind.’”

Inspectors said that the experience of imprisonment for these women does not align with that of other prisoners, and that this is not in accordance with Yogyakarta Principle 9, “which requires that protective measures involve no greater restriction of their rights than is experienced by the general prison population.”

The inspectorate has urged the IPS to “develop, in partnership with relevant civil society organisations, transgender people in prison and other relevant stakeholders, a national policy regarding the safe custody of transgender women and men.”

In a statement, the IPS said that while all prisoners were accommodated according to their legal gender, a transgender policy for Irish prisons is in development.

It said: “The Irish Prison Service is currently liaising with different agencies in relation to drafting a transgender policy this will require consultations with all stakeholders.”

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