Well…this is going to be a long post…but worth getting on record, i think, with the complaint dumpd in the lap of the pcc today in respc of the Sun’s latest foay into trans matters. Here goes.
Before going in to the meat of the complaint, a little background. In this, I may have a slight advantage over the Sun, in that I have had sight of the Ministry of Justice draft guidelines on searching prisoners, which was obtained by the Star under an FOI request earlier this year and is available from the MoJ by the startling expedient of – phoning them up and asking for a copy. So I am unclear precisely what the “five-page document” they base their piece on, unless they have had sight of section 11 of the full document (which runs to 5 pages).
Anyway. Here is what I believe the situation to be based on talking to the MoJ and reading the DRAFT guidelines, obtained by the Star back in September.
At present, no prisoners are asked to undergo intimate searches. By that is meant a search which involves prison officers delving into body orifices. However, male prisoners may be asked to undergo a “squat search” which involves them removing clothing from the bottom half of their body and, er, squatting. At this point, apparently, items concealed inside the anus tend either to fall out or protrude.
Female prisoners are NOT subject to a squat search, because intelligence within the prison service suggests they tend to use a different body orifice for concealing items in – and therefore there is no point in asking them to squat.
Prisoners are NOT naked or nude during the course of these searches: rather, guards ask prisoners to remove clothes from the top half of the body and then to replace these clothes BEFORE they are asked to remove clothing from the bottom half and, in exceptional circumstances, to squat.
Who do these guidelines apply to? Er, all prisoners – and the rules also work carefully thru all permutations of male-to-female, female-to-male, pre-op and post-op. Basically, once you are post-op, the guidelines suggest you will be treated in accordance with your confirmed gender (i.e., the one that your external body now presents): and if you are pre-op, unless you have a gender recognition certificate, you will still be searched in accordance with your “birth gender”.
Now to the piece itself:
1. The Headline declares “Strip search axed for sex swap lags”, and this is supported in the lede which states: “PRISON bosses have been told not to order intimate strip searches on sex swap lags”.
There are several problems here. First, since prisoners are not currently required to undergo a full strip search, it can hardly be said the procedure has been axed – for anyone.
Second, the draft guidelines relate only to which gender of search is appropriate for a given prisoner. Since both male and female searches involve a partial removal of clothing at any given time, and will continue to do so, nothing has been axed specifically in respect of transsexuals.
It is also inaccurate to claim that searching has in any way been axed “for sex swap lags”. MtF transsexuals would undergo a marginally lesser degree of searching: FtM transsexuals would undergo an intensified degree of searching.
On that basis it would have been as “accurate” to proclaim: “Sex swap lags to get extra searches”.
2. Next par: “The new rule”. If this is an extract from the draft guidelines, then it is not a new rule. It is an old proposal: old, in that it has been on the desk of the Minister for Justice for a year or longer: proposal, in that it is not a rule.
Indeed, given that the MoJ claims that it has long been policy that intimate searches are not permitted, it is hard to see what is new about this at all.
3. It goes on: “And the “squat” search ban does not only apply to prisoners who’ve had a sex change. Officials have ruled that gender swappers are now exempt even if they haven’t yet had any surgery.”
Again the wording: “officials have ruled”: if these are guidelines, then they haven’t ruled anything.
And the somewhat misleading suggestion that these searches are blocked for those who are pre-op. Not exactly. If the Sun is reading the same guidelines that I have seen, they clearly state that post-op MtF would be exempt from squat searches as well as pre-op with a gender recognition certificate.
Otherwise, according to the guidelines, “Only male to female transsexual prisoners without a GRC and who have not commenced gender reassignment surgery may be asked to bend or squat.” The suggested rules are not cast in stone: but it is clear that in many cases a pre-op transsexual without a grc will be treated in accordance with their birth gender and not their identified gender.
4. The Sun continues: “But now the Ministry of Justice has banned them for all female prisoners, including transsexuals”.
“Them” is here squat searches. The “now” is misleading, since as far as I am aware, women have long been exempt from squat searches – for the reasons detailed above.
5. Next par: “It has issued a bizarre five-page document – leaked to The Sun – detailing the new rules”.
I’d query the juxtaposition of “issued”, “leaked” and “rules”. Basically, if its issued, its hardly leaked: if they are rules they aren’t guiidelines. And so on.
6. Next par: “Male lags who want a sex change can demand to be given a nude search by a woman – while women awaiting a sex swap can demand a male officer. Governors must draw up a “voluntary contract” with all transsexuals before they can carry out a “rub down” or full body search.”
First up, as above, the policy absolutely does not apply simply to “male lags who want a sex change” – but only to those at a particular pretty advanced stage in the process. Unless the Sun is being utterly literal and wishes to claim that anyone can demand anything at any time…so long as they don’t expect to get it.
Also, since no-one in the prison system is currently being given a “nude search”, it is again misleading in the extreme to suggest that transsexuals can now insist on one.
Second, is the idea that governors “must” draw up a voluntary contract. Not exactly. The guidelines I’ve seen state that “Transsexual prisoners at all stages of the gender reassignment process should be encouraged to enter into a voluntary written agreement in respect of their searching arrangements”. Encouraged to enter an agreement does not sound like “Governors must”.
7. Second par following: “Prison officers say the new regime will involve more staff and extra training, meaning costs will soar.”
No doubt some prisoner officers somewhere stated that the regime would involve more costs and training. However, the numbers likely to be involved are minute relative to the overall prison population, so the Sun addition of “meaning costs will soar” is unjustified by anything in the text itself.