European Committee for Prevention of Torture Reports Conditions in Prisons for Transgender Individuals, Provides Recommendations for Improving Conditions

By Sofia H. 

STRASBOURG, FRANCE – The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has released a 2024 Report on the treatment of transgender individuals in European prisons in Council of Europe member states.

The report provided a series of guidelines for prisons to follow in their treatment of their transgender population in order to avoid inhumane treatment.

“Prisons are a microcosm of society, often with amplified issues given their smaller, confined settings. Hence, the treatment of transgender persons living in prisons mirrors broader societal attitudes to persons who do not fall into historical understandings of gender,” the report began.

The report notes a lack of legal recognition by the state of their transgender population plays a role in causing harsh treatment of transgender persons in prisons.

“Regrettably, discrimination, transphobia and mistreatment on the ground of gender identity remain rife in the Council of Europe area and regressive attitudes of this nature may be mirrored in prisons, on occasion leading to violence against transgender prisoners by other prisoners or even by prison staff,” reported the CPT.

The CPT reported placement of transgender folks in prisons varies by state and that, “few states have specific policies and legislation in place to guide prison authorities on placement and often this is done on a case-by-case basis.”

The CPT calls into question politically charged debates over the placement of transgender persons in prisons because of concerns of the safety of the cisgendered population.

“(W)hile inter-prisoner violence between cisgender persons living in prisons remains a very significant issue in many member states, it is never suggested that this security issue is best viewed through a gender lens,” the CPT countered.

The report continued the argument against protecting the cisgendered population, writing, “In the view of the CPT, there is no valid security reason why, in principle, a balanced individual risk assessment carried out when a transgender person is admitted to prison should differ from that which is carried out on the committal of a cisgender person.

“In both cases, the dual objective should be the same: to make a placement decision that will most effectively protect the person being committed from others who may wish to cause them harm, and to limit the risk that they may be placed in a location in which they may cause harm to others,” the CPT concluded in its argument.

The CPT includes in its recommendations for placements of transgender individuals in prisons by arguing easier access to legally updating one’s gender to reflect their gender identity would allow for appropriate placements in prisons.

“(T)he CPT considers that, as a matter of principle, transgender persons should be accommodated in the prison section corresponding to the gender with which they identify,” the report argued.

The report concluded the recommendations on the placement of transgender individuals by acknowledging the vulnerable situations transgender persons may face and recommended prisons to accommodate this reality.

“Moreover, the CPT considers that transgender persons should also be proactively consulted in their initial entry needs and risk assessment procedures before placement decisions are made, as well as given the option that their gender identity be kept confidential if they so wish,” the report concluded.

The report transitioned to discuss the use of segregation or isolation of transgender individuals in prisons. The CPT recommended prisons should avoid isolation or a “solitary confinement type regime” due to the negative impact isolation can cause.

The report also addressed the possibility of ill-treatment by prison staff and violence between incarcerated individuals.

The CPT argued placing a transgender individual in a location that opposes their gender identity places that individual at risk of harm.

“The placement of a transgender person in a prison section accommodating persons of a different gender from that with which they identify also inherently heightens the risk of violence and intimidation directed towards that individual,” the report asserted.

The CPT included cases of transgender women who faced discrimination in prisons due to their placement in male sections.

“(T)ransgender women prisoners held in all-male settings reported that they were not systematically allowed different shower times, that they felt unsafe and were humiliated by constantly being referred to by their male names,” reported the CPT.

Despite these cases, the CPT also reported some prisons provided proper accommodations for trans women including being “held in the female section of the prison and were allowed to shower at different times, wear female clothing and be addressed by staff by their chosen names.”

In its recommendations for prisons, the CPT recommends prisons adopt policies with “strategies to combat ill-treatment by prison staff as well as strategies to reduce any incidences of inter-prisoner violence and intimidation directed against transgender prisoners.”

The report supported appropriate treatment of transgender persons in prisons noting, “prison management and custodial staff should enable transgender prisoners to dress in the clothes associated with the self-identified gender and should address them by their chosen names.”

“Prison authorities should allow access to gender-affirming treatments and surgery for transgender prisoners, for those who so wish…  persons deprived of their liberty should not be excluded from benefiting from these treatments and legal procedures provided for by law for transgender persons,” the report concluded.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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