Limerick TD weighs in on debate over transgender prisoners with histories of sexual violence

Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea.

LIMERICK TD Willie O’Dea has backed calls for transgender women prisoners with a history of sexual or physical violence against other women to be incarcerated in men’s prisons.

The local Fianna Fáil TD said, in his opinion, it is “most inappropriate that they should be incarcerated with women”.

Deputy O’Dea believes Ireland should copy policy introduced in Scotland where safeguards have been introduced to ensure that trans female prisoners who pose a threat to women prisoners are detained in male jails.

He said he would also support a national debate on whether or not a specific prison or detention centre should be provided in the future for transgender prisoners.

Deputy O’Dea said he supported a call for similar safeguards sought by Women’s Space Ireland, a group that campaigns for “single-sex spaces” in Irish prisons.

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“I would basically agree that there should be a separate prison regime for women. I know the prison service are saying all sorts of things – that they have special arrangements and this, that, and the other. Nevertheless, when overcrowding happens, how well do those special arrangements hold up?” Deputy O’Dea said.

The former Minister for Defence said while he was aware jails try to segregate prisoners who pose a risk to the wider prison population, he wondered if this was actually possible because Irish prisons are “overcrowded”.

Scotland’s justice secretary, Angela Constance, said last Thursday that new prison safeguards there meant that “no transgender prisoner with a history of violence or sexual offending against women can be placed in the women’s (prison) estate”.

Scotland moved to introduce the safeguards following the detention of convicted double rapist Isla Bryson in a Scottish female prison prior to being sent to a men’s prison.

Trans woman prisoner Barbie Kardashian is currently being held in the female wing of Limerick Prison, but segregated from the rest of the female population.

Kardashian is serving a four and half year sentence, imposed last March, for threatening to rape, torture, and kill a woman.

Commenting on the safeguards that have been implemented in Scotland, Deputy O’Dea said he would “agree with that 100 per cent”.

Asked if the same protocols should be implemented here, he replied that “of course we should”, adding that because such prisoners “have a history of violence against women” it would be “most inappropriate that they should be incarcerated with women”.

Asked if a prison for trans prisoners ought to be considered, Deputy O’Dea said: “I don’t know would there be enough inmates to justify that, but certainly anything can be discussed. I’ve no difficulty with that being discussed. Or a special detention center, yes, that’s something that could be looked at, of course, yes.”

Deputy O’Dea said he planned to raise Women’s Space Ireland’s concerns in the Dáil and seek further information from the Minister for Justice about policy being drafted by the Irish Prison Service on how to manage trans prisoners in Irish jails.

The Irish Prison Service has said it is drafting new policy on the management of trans prisoners.

Speaking during a visit to Limerick Prison on May 5, Minster for Justice Simon Harris said: “No prisoner who is (deemed) a risk to any prison population or prison staff is in a position to mix with the prison population in general”.