Irish Prison Service Failing To Protect At Risk LGBT+ Prisoners

A report commissioned by the Irish Penal Reform Trust has found the Prison Service has no policy in place to protect LGBT+ prisoners from violence.

The upper floor of Mountjoy prison service

‘Out On The Inside’, a report commissioned to investigate the needs of LGBT+ prisoners, has shown the Prison Service has no current policy in place to protect those at risk from potential violence. The report stated that cases of intimidation and physical violence were highest in all male prisons, while trans people were found to be most at risk.

The report contained a statement from Brendan, a focus group participant, who detailed the situation for LGBT+ prisoners. “Being gay in prison is seen as a weakness, and people prey on that weakness, because it singles somebody out. And that makes them a target for verbal abuse and physical abuse and emotional abuse and psychological abuse, the whole lot.”

The situation for trans prisoners is particularly dangerous, as the report states, “The most common practice currently is for transgender prisoners to be placed in prisons based on their genitalia or assigned sex at birth.”

Rachel, a trans prisoner interviewed, spoke of the difficult situation she found herself in, “The organisation goes on what’s on a person’s birth cert, so if on the birth cert they are a man they go into a male prison. If they are on the birth cert a woman they going to the women’s prison, and unfortunately if it is someone who’s going through the process [gender transition] it’s difficult. I had to go into prison and un-work 8 years of living as female, and try and develop a male persona again.”

The Irish prison service differs from their counterparts in the UK in that prisoners there are incarcerated as the gender they identify as, rather than how they were assigned. That policy was passed last year following a number of deaths of trans prisoners in custody.

In an interview with the Irish MirrorDeirdre Malone, the executive director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, described the possibility of violence for LGBT+ prisoners, “Not only are you a prisoner but you’re also a member of a minority group in a closed space and the potential for abuse within closed spaces is huge”

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