Prison officers are demanding procedural guidelines on how to deal with transgender inmates as male staff cannot search men who identify as women while female staff cannot search prisoners who identify as women but are physically still men.
The issue came to light less than a fortnight ago when staff were directed to search a transgender inmate because there was a suspicion she was carrying a concealed weapon.
Just as male prison officers from the specialist Operational Support Group (OSG) were due to search the prisoner, this was halted as she identifies as female.
Then, a number of female prison officers were requested to search the inmate. However, this was duly halted as it is not permitted for women officers to search men, and the inmate in question has not had gender reassignment surgery.
OSG units across the prison service consist of specially trained officers to prevent the direction of crime from prisons and to detect prohibited articles.
A well-placed prison source said: “There was mass confusion when this issue arose. Basically no one was permitted to search this prisoner because we have no clear guidelines or policies on how to deal with transgender inmates. “No one searched this inmate in the end and a wand metal detector was used to scan the inmate.
“No weapons were found on the prisoner. But this is not an ideal search method by any means. A physical search is far more effective. We are going to need a policy in writing on how to deal with this specific type of prisoner. “Because in line with society, we will see more transgender inmates coming through the system.”
The Irish Prison Service will now be asked to develop guidelines for circulation to all prison staff on policies for transgender inmates, including search guidelines.
One criminal defence lawyer says that the Gender Recognition Act 2015 has placed the State in an impossible position.
There are two transgender inmates within the Irish prison system. Both were born male but identify as women. The transgender inmates are both housed in women’s jails and are understood to be kept separate from the rest of the prison population at all times.