Transgender Women In Male Prisons: Tara Hudson's Struggle

These past few years might be termed somewhat of a success for the U.K. LGBT+ community, with same-sex marriage having been legalised in England and Wales in July 2013, and then in Scotland in February 2014. With the ongoing rise of social media, people appear to be more aware of the LGBT+ community and the problems it still faces; the most recent of which involved a transgender woman initially forced to serve her sentence in an all-male prison.

Tara Hudson, 26, from Bath, has lived her whole adult life as a woman. Hudson has received hormone treatment, undergone 6 years of gender reconstruction surgery and has been medically declared a woman by her doctor. In spite of all of this, after having admitted assault when she headbutted a male bar employee in Bath on the 26th of December last year, it was ruled that her 12 week prison sentence be served in the all-male HMP Bristol. This decision sparked outrage and more than 110, 000 people signed a petition calling for her to be moved to a female prison. Hudson’s mother, Jackie Brooklyn, was rightfully distraught at her daughter’s situation as she said that "They may just have well have (sic) given her a death sentence. It’s absolutely hell." The Ministry of Justice responded to the public indignation against the decision, stating that it is policy to place an offender according to their legally recognised gender.

(Photo credits: Bristol Post)

The consequences of placing a transgender woman in an all-male prison are obvious, and are not restricted to emotional trauma, but it also creates the potential for physical abuse and sexual violence. Hudson, who both identifies and presents as a woman, is at extremely high risk of both these dangers. It was no surprise when Hudson’s mother revealed that her daughter was being constantly sexually taunted in jail. The court’s decision to let Hudson’s legal gender overrule her chosen gender identity exemplifies the challenges which the LGBT+ community still face, in their fight for equality.

Last Friday, 30th of October 2015, Hudson’s appeal against her sentence was heard at the Bristol Crown Court. Hudson’s barrister, Nicholas Wragg, argued that Hudson’s sentence had been excessive and she had suffered while being detained in an all-male prison, stating that Hudson had been kept in isolation from the prison population for 23 hours a day. Hudson's treatment in the prison exacerbated her past struggle with mental health. The appeal was ultimately denied, but the Recorder Llewellyn Sellick did add that the judges would "invite further and sensitive consideration of where the sentence was served." The latest that the BBC has reported is that Hudson has been relocated to the all-female Eastwood Park Prison in Gloucester, where she will serve the remainder of her sentence.

Although this final decision of relocation is a win for Hudson, the situation raises questions about the extent to which the U.K. has truly embraced and accepted the LGBT+ community and furthermore has raised issues of gender identity that are still very much pertinent in wider society.