Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea has backed calls for transgender women prisoners with a history of violence against women to be incarcerated in men’s jails.
The Limerick City TD said, in his opinion, it is “most inappropriate that they should be incarcerated with women”.
Mr O’Dea said Ireland should copy policy introduced in Scotland where safeguards have been introduced to ensure that transgender prisoners who pose a threat to women prisoners are detained in male jails.
Mr O’Dea said he would also support a national debate on whether a specific prison or detention centre should be provided in the future for transgender prisoners.
He added that he backs a call for similar safeguards sought by Women’s Space Ireland, a group which campaigns for “single-sex spaces” for women and girls.
The group recently held a silent protest while holding a banner that read “No males in Women’s Jails” outside the main entrance of Limerick Prison.
“I would basically agree with that, there should be a separate prison regime for women.
“I know the prison service are saying all sorts of things, that they have special arrangements and this, that and the other; nevertheless when overcrowding happens, how well do those special arrangements hold up?” Mr O’Dea said.
The former minister for defence said while he was aware jails try to segregate prisoners who pose a risk to the wider prison population, he questioned if this was possible due to overcrowding issues in the State’s prisons.
“The prisons are literally overflowing at the moment, and you wonder, even with the best will in the world, how that can hold up in a situation of mass overcrowding,” Mr O’Dea said.
Lasr week, Scotland’s justice secretary Angela Constance said new prison safeguards there meant “no transgender prisoner with a history of violence or sexual offending against women can be placed in the women’s (prison) estate”.
Scotland moved to introduce the safeguards following the detention of convicted double rapist Isla Bryson in a Scottish female prison prior to being sent to a men’s prison.
Bryson, who raped two women when she went by Adam Graham, was in a women-only prison for two days before being moved out following public backlash.
Here, a transgender woman is currently being held in the female wing of Limerick Prison, but is segregated from the rest of the prisoner population.
Barbie Kardashian (21), who previously changed her name by deed poll and received a Gender Recognition Certificate from the State, is serving a four and half year sentence for threatening to rape, torture, and kill a woman.
Commenting on Scotland’s approach, Mr O’Dea said: “I would agree with that 100 per cent.”
He added the same protocols should be implemented here. “These people were born as men, they have a history of violence against women, so I think it is most inappropriate that they should be incarcerated with women.”
While Mr O’Dea said he does not know whether there would be enough transgender prisoners to warrant a dedicated transgender prison, he said the topic should be discussed.
He said he also supports calls by Women’s Space Ireland for safe spaces for women in Irish prisons, schools, work places and the wider community.
Mr O’Dea said he planned to raise the group’s concerns in the Dáil and seek further information from Minister for Justice Simon Harris about policy being drafted by the Irish Prison Service on how to manage transgender prisoners.
A spokesperson for Women’s Space Ireland, Jill Nesbitt said: “Deputy Willie O’Dea’s comments in support of women who say there should be no males in women’s jails is very welcome.”
Cork City owner says chants ‘crossed the line’ aga…
She added the group hoped a new women’s section of Limerick Prison, which is due to be opened before the end of this year, “will be for women only”.
“The most vulnerable of women deserve to have single-sex provision while in prison,” Ms Nesbitt said.
The Irish Prison Service has said it is drafting new policy on the management of transgender prisoners.
Speaking during a visit to Limerick Prison on May 5th, Mr Harris said: “No prisoner who is a risk to any prison population or prison staff is in a position to mix with the prison population in general.”