The transgender prison population has grown by one fifth in two years, new Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures show.
In a report seen by The Telegraph, 197 prisoners serving sentences in England and Wales identified as transgender in 2021, a 21 per cent jump from 163 in 2019.
In a separate category are offenders who hold a gender recognition certificate (GRC), a document that legally recognises their change in gender. This year’s Offender Equalities Annual Report is expected to confirm for the first time that the number of prisoners who hold a GRC is 23, although it is understood that the figure is still being investigated.
Of the 197 prisoners who are living as the opposite gender in prison, but not legally recognised as such, the overwhelming majority were men identifying as women, the figures show.
“When asked about the gender with which the prisoner identified from the following categories, 146 identified as female, 39 as male, 11 as non-binary and one did not provide a response," the Offender Equalities Annual Report states.
The report, which found that more than half of prisons (56 per cent) in the country had one or more transgender inmate, acknowledges that the figures are “likely to underestimate” the true number of prisoners who identify as the opposite gender.
The latest figures reveal the gradual increase of the transgender prison populate at estates across England and Wales since 2016, when the data was first collected.
In 2016, 70 prisoners identified as transgender. This increased to 125 in 2017, 139 in 2018 and 163 in 2019. No data was collected in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Of the 163 prisoners who identified as the opposite gender in the 2019 report, 130 identified as female, 20 as male and 13 did not provide a response.
As numbers increase, ‘so does threat to women’
Campaigners said the figures show a “significant yearly increase in the number of male prisoners identifying as transgender”.
“As the numbers increase, so does the risk to women in prison due to MoJ policies that permit some of these prisoners to be housed in the female estate,” Kate Coleman, from Keep Prisons Single Sex, said.
The latest figures come after a landmark ruling in the High Court this summer in which senior judges concluded that it was lawful to house transgender women, who were born men, in the female prison estate.
A female prisoner brought a legal challenge against the MoJ for allowing inmates to serve their sentence in a prison that corresponds with their gender identity.
Lawyers representing the woman, named only as FDJ, argued that placing transgender women with a history of sexual violence in female prisons put other inmates at risk of sex attacks.
But two High Court judges found that although it may appear “inappropriate and incongruous” for a transgender female prisoner possibly with a “masculine physique and male genitalia” to be incarcerated in a women’s prison, the Government had checks and balances in place to reduce any risks.
Lord Justice Holroyde said he accepted inmates may feel “fear and anxiety” if a transgender woman was a sexual predator, but believed specialist panels could ensure those who posed a risk were moved to a male prison, kept on a specialist wing or only allowed to meet females under supervision.
A Prison Service spokesman said: “Transgender prisoners make up just 0.2 per cent of the prison population and our approach to managing them was recently confirmed by the High Court to be safe and legal.”