Doubly imprisoned: Transgender and non-binary prisoners' experiences in England and Wales

Suhomlinova, Olga and O'Shea, Saoirse (2021). Doubly imprisoned: Transgender and non-binary prisoners' experiences in England and Wales. In: Johnson, Austin H.; Rogers, Baker A. and Taylor, Tiffany eds. Advances in Trans Studies. Advances in Gender Research, 32. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 125–139.



In this chapter we explore the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) prisoners, arguably the most vulnerable minority in the prison estate, using the data from our correspondence study with transgender women and non-binary individuals incarcerated in male establishments in England and Wales. We provide a brief review of the extant literature, describe the English prison system and the regulations concerning transgender prisoners, and analyse two axes of vulnerability of TGNC prisoners: social (stemming from relationships between prisoners) and institutional (resulting from the prison regime). Along the social axes, we find, in contrast with prior research, that our respondents defied the stereotypes of trans prisoners as submissive to males in a hypermasculine prison society and as involved primarily in abusive relationships. Along the institutional axes, we find that, despite the progressive by international standards transgender prison regulations, prisoners were subject to vicissitudes in treatment that negatively affected their ability to express their gender and their health. Focusing on access to gender-affirming items (clothing, prosthetics, make-up) and gender-affirming medical treatment, we develop recommendations for the prison service that could improve the conditions of confinement for TGNC prisoners.

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