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Britain May Change Transgender Jail Policy After Inmate's Death

  • Reuters

A view of the entrance of the British Ministry of Justice in London.

A view of the entrance of the British Ministry of Justice in London.

The British government is reviewing its policies on transgender prisoners following the death of transgender woman Vicky Thompson in an all-male prison near Leeds in northern England, a minister said Friday.

Thompson, 21, was born male but had identified as female since her mid-teens and told her friends she would kill herself if sent to a men's prison, the BBC reported.

Justice Ministry guidelines say British prisoners should be jailed according to their legally recognized gender, with some exceptions for people "sufficiently advanced in the gender reassignment process."

Changing gender is a difficult and time-consuming process, so transgender prisoners are sometimes not placed in the type of prison they want.

Thompson died at Armley prison on November 13, the ministry said. "As with all deaths in custody there will be an investigation by the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman," it said in a statement.

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous told parliament that "members of the trans community are involved" in the review of policy.

He began his statement by acknowledging that November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance, when activists around the world remember people killed because of their gender identity.

Responding to remarks by opposition Labor Party women and equalities spokeswoman Cat Smith, Selous said the government wanted to make improvements in the assessment process early in the new year.

Smith said that "on 3 November, I raised on the floor of the house the issue of Tara Hudson, a young trans woman placed in a men's prison. It is a tragedy that, within three weeks of that date, we are once again discussing the issue of trans prisoners."

Hudson was transferred from a men's prison after a successful campaign by activists, which resulted in almost 160,000 people signing an online petition.