A majority of male inmates claiming to be trans-identified have been convicted of violent offenses, and nearly half have a history of sexual offenses, according to a study from the Canadian prison system. The study, conducted by Correctional Service of Canada surveyed 99 so-called “gender diverse offenders” who were part of the in-custody population between December 2017, and March 2020. The study seeks to provide “a descriptive profile of gender diverse offenders, who accounted for 0.4% of the general offender population.” Men who identify as women made up the largest group (61.6%), followed by 21% of women who identify as men. 17% of participants were categorized as “gender fluid” or “gender non-conforming/non-binary.” According to the data, 41.6% of male inmates who identified as the opposite sex had been convicted of homicide, and 91.6% had been incarcerated for a violent offense.
Of male inmates identifying as women 74.3% were found to have committed a sex-related crime. In comparison, 71.4% of women identifying as men were incarcerated for a violent offense, and 28.6% had been convicted of homicide. Female inmates identifying as men had a 0% history of sex-related offenses. Another data table breaks down the “gender diverse individuals” who committed sex offenses, finding that 93.9% committed a sex offense before they started identifying as the opposite sex. In 84.9% of cases, the inmates’ offense caused death or serious harm to the victim. A senior media relations advisor for Correctional Service Canada, said that “of the 33 gender diverse offenders identified with a sex offense history, 84.9% were male and 15.1% female at the time of the study.” Among the sex offense crimes committed by the “gender diverse individuals,” females (54.5%) and children (58%) made up over half of the victims.
The report highlights the debate about whether correctional systems should allow male inmates to be housed in women’s prisons where female inmates are at risk. In 2017, Canada added “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the categories of personhood under the national Human Rights Act and the criminal code under Bill C-16. As a result, male prisoners who claim to identify as female could request to be relocated to women’s prisons. However, Canada later updated the policy in 2022, allowing prison officials to reject an inmate’s transfer request based on their chosen gender identity. The issue of whether to allow inmates to be relocated to opposite-sex prisons is a hot topic. Recently the Justice Secretary in Scotland announced that the government had paused housing trans-identifying inmates with violent histories in-all female prisons.
Pending a review, newly convicted offenders with violent histories in Scotland will not be placed in women’s prisons, nor will trans-identifying inmates be transferred from a male prison to a female one. The decision stems from the controversy surrounding Isla Bryson, an offender convicted of rape twice before identifying as a woman. Bryson was set to be transferred to a women’s prison, but due to concern about the female inmates’ safety, he was transferred to HMP Edinburgh instead. Another trans-identifying inmate, Tiffany Scott, was also scheduled for a transfer to the same women’s prison. Before he started identifying as a woman, Scott was convicted of stalking a 13-year-old girl, and he had a history of violence. Female inmates who have been incarcerated in the United States have also spoken out about what it’s like to be imprisoned alongside a biological male.
One former inmate Amie Ichikawa recalled telling her disbelieving family that she had been locked up with men. “It’s the most helpless feeling I’ve ever had,” Ichikawa said. “To know that you have absolutely no control over your environment or physical wellbeing is devastating. And there’s no one you can talk to about it. I would call home every day crying for weeks, trying to explain to my family that there was a serial rapist housed here. And that it was legal, that the state did it,” she continued. Ichikawa was housed at the Central California Women’s Facility, and she reported how synthetic testosterone was distributed at some clinics. Women with a more masculine appearance were often encouraged to take the drug whilst trans-identifying male inmates were permitted to take estrogen. Ichikawa said women confided in her that they considered taking testosterone to grow strong enough to protect themselves from the male inmates inside the prison.
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