The Inspectorate for Prisons has noted its concern that two transgender prisoners live “an extremely isolated existence” separated from the general population on E Wing in Limerick Prison.
Both were subject to Rule 63 of the Irish Prison Rules 2007 and locked in their cells for up to 23 hours per day.
The inspectorate cites human-rights guidelines, and says that placement in prison should avoid further marginalisation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, or the risk of violence, ill-treatment or physical, mental or sexual abuse.
These protective measures should involve no greater restriction of rights than is experienced by the general prison population, the report says.
Prison personnel should be required to undertake training and awareness-raising programmes regarding international human rights standards and principles of equality and non-discrimination, including in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Both inmates informed the inspection team that their experience in isolation had adversely impacted on their mental health with one not going outside to the yard because of feeling “uncomfortable and alone”.
The prisoner also described isolation as “mental torture” and said it felt as though the approach to imprisonment of transgender people in the prison was “out of sight, out of mind.”
The Inspectorate has urged the Irish Prison Service (IPS) to develop a national policy regarding the safe custody of transgender women and men.
Limerick Prison has provided education and training to the inmates, along with weekly psychology sessions.
Management informed the inspection team that the provision of a safe environment for the transgender inmates was labour intensive.
International best practice indicates that transgender prisoners should be given a choice regarding the gender of the person conducting a search, but the inmates raised concerns that when searches were being conducted a male officer was present as well as a female officer.
A small number of prison officers initially referred to the inmates as ‘he/him’ but the matter was resolved once this was brought to the attention of management.
The Inspectorate has said that custodial staff should be “reminded of their duty to respect the specific gender identity of transgender prisoners, in particular in terms of accommodation, clothing and by addressing them with their chosen name.”
Prison staff will receive further awareness training in relation to LGBT+ people, with the aim of enhancing “knowledge and understanding of LGBT+ terminology, the issues that transgender people face and considerations for future interactions”.
The inspectorate wants sight of the LGBT+ awareness training curriculum and materials, as well as with the attendance numbers (by prison) and information on how often this programme is delivered, updated and reviewed.