The role of NPMs in the protection of LGBT people in detention Presentation for 6th thematic workshop for NPMs, Baku October 2011 Dr Peter Dunn
This presentation addresses: • The experience of LGBT people in detention (mainly drawn from UK) • The specific needs of LGBT detainees • Some initiatives designed to support LGBT people and challenge homophobia or transphobia • What the role of NPMs can include • Discussion and action
Context • T is always put with LGB – yet the issues are different: ‘LGB’ refers to sexual orientation, whereas ‘T’ refers to gender • The numbers of LGBT people in detention • LGBT people may be over-represented in places of detention, like ethnic minorities are • Most LGBT people in detention will have experienced homophobic or transphobic abuse or violence and will be fearful of experiencing it in custody, possibly from staff and from other detainees • It is homophobia not homosexuality that is troubling to most LGB people
The experience for LGBT detainees “Our biggest fear is falling into the hands of the criminal justice system” (transgender woman) “In my experience prison is one of the most homophobic environments it is possible to experience” (bisexual male prisoner) “I would encourage anyone to come out in prison so that they can be themselves and not have to act straight... I’m glad I came out (prisoner LGBT representative) Quotes 2 and 3 from Bent Bars newsletter
“Once I was comfortable with saying ‘I am gay’ out loud I came out to my personal officer on the wing. That was not such a good idea as he was homophobic and told the whole wing. I cannot explain the hatred that some prisoners and staff had for me. Everyday I was told I am a disgrace to my culture and that I should kill myself. Unfortunately I got very depressed and tried to kill myself, but thankfully I didn’t succeed. I still get threatened every day but I will never let them get to me again. I am a gay man and I am proud of it no matter what they do to me. I will never be ashamed of how I am again.” From Bent Bars newsletter.
The concerns of LGB detainees • Homophobic attitudes and behaviour from other detainees • Homophobic attitudes and behaviour from staff • Staff not taking action when detainees report being threatened • Staff have no training about (or awareness of) LGBT issues • Concerns about same sex relationships in detention • Concerns about the rights of LGBT people in detention (e.g. protection from harassment, availability of civil partnerships) • Fears about deportation to countries where being gay can result in prosecution or persecution.
The functions of homophobia in places of detention In male prisons, homophobic or transphobic abuse is a resource that is used to uphold aggressive masculinity This is because as well as affirming heterosexual men’s masculinity, abuse also punishes gay men (or trans women) for performing their male gender roles in ways that challenge masculine norms and expectations So, combating homophobia and transphobia is a difficult task.
LGB detainees’ needs Confidentiality (staff must not pass on information about sexual orientation without consent) LGBT prisoner representatives to talk to, who will take problems to staff for action Information about organisations outside the prison that detainees can contact for support or information A group or forum for LGBT prisoners that meets regularly Visible positive role models / celebrations of LGBT culture, LGBT media Talks or visits from gay men’s health worker A means of reporting homophobic abuse - and action taken to stop it All policies to be equality impact assessed (from HM Prison Winchester GB&T group).
Particular needs of trans people in detention Allocation to an establishment of their preferred gender Reception staff must be trained about how to receive and support a trans detainee on arrival A process for exploring needs and preferences immediately on arrival concerning searching, clothing, special equipment needed (prostheses, equipment for dilation, wigs etc), protection from harassment, use of detainee’s preferred name and title etc Procedures that respect the detainee’s preferred gender role; instead of focusing on their biological gender, which can be demeaning Policies include the needs of trans detainees, and they are consulted about them Accessible information about support and help A clear commitment to challenging transphobia.
Some successful initiatives to support LGBT detainees • A young offender institution asks all young men on arrival if they are interested in joining the gay support group • A prison that runs a monthly LGBT support group • A prison where LGBT prisoner representatives attend the support group and senior management meetings • A police force that has a policy on how police officers search transgender people (they are offered a choice about whether male or female officers search them) • A regular focus group to consult LGBT detainees about policies • LGBT community groups attending the prison to give talks, especially about resettlement and health issues.
Some successful initiatives to tackle homophobia / transphobia • Visible positive images of LGBT culture and relationships • A policy on safeguarding LGBT detainees that includes an action plan. Progress on implementing the action plan is monitored and reviewed monthly at senior management meetings • All new detainees are told on arrival that homophobic / transphobic abuse will not be tolerated • Detainees invited to provide information about their sexuality if they wish, and trends are monitored • A clear procedure for staff on how to prevent and respond to homophobic bullying - with all staff trained on how to use it and detainees consulted about it • Thorough investigation of homophobic / transphobic abuse with serious incidents reported to the police.
Examples of poor practice that NPMs should challenge • No policy. Or policies that are not backed by action plans • Action plans that are not regularly monitored and reviewed • Senior management who never discuss homophobic or transphobic abuse and bullying • No clear statement to all detainees that homophobic or transphobic abuse is not tolerated • Invisibility of LGBT detainees: no policy, no monitoring, no accessible information about LGBT culture or organisations, and staff who claim that “we don’t often have them here” • Condoms not available because detainees “are not allowed to have sexual relationships” • Assumptions made, instead of preferences asked about.
Poor practice that NPMs should take up: • The prison collects information about racist incidents and it is discussed regularly by senior managers, but there is no information about homophobic incidents, so there is no discussion about them • A letter from the Diversity Officer to a detainee: “If I can be of any further help to you with problems arising from your homosexuality please do not hesitate to ask...” • A prisons inspector who recommends that a prison should “provide staff with training on how to deal with gay people” • Prison staff simply give out the address of a support organisation instead of inviting detainees to talk about their concerns • Discrimination against LGBT detainees is excused by reference to religious teaching or ‘cultural’ norms that cannot be questioned.
Discussion and action plans Thank you... Peter.firstname.lastname@example.org