Jade Eatough

Jade Eatough was living as a woman in a men’s prison when she hanged herself. In 2005, he sexually assaulted a 19 year old woman. He had his arms around her but she shouted and swung her arms, and he ran off. Two hours later he held a knife to the throat of a fifteen year old girl, marched her to waste ground and raped her. In mitigation, his barrister said he had been damaged as a child by physical and sexual abuse. The offence was so ordinary that it was reported in the local paper, the Accrington Observer, but not more widely. Her suicide on 19 August was reported in the Sun and the Mirror.

She had started hormone therapy, but not had surgery. She was in a men’s prison as she had no gender recognition certificate. She was not on suicide watch.

I also found the UKStar, which seems bizarrely autotranslated: “She was vital as a lady” rather than “she was living as a woman”. “A prison service orator” rather than “spokesperson”. “She was detected passed during a slight dungeon check”. UK prisons are unpleasant, but we don’t use dungeons any more.

Jessica Winfield, also a trans woman in prison for rape, was moved into segregation, and the Sun reported that this was for making sexual advances to female prisoners. The Independent reported that she was segregated for some other reason, quoting “a source close to the situation”. Prisoners are segregated for their own protection. Prisoners may be tried for offences committed while in prison, and the prison governor can impose additional days which extend the date of release. The governor can also impose cautions, solitary confinement, loss of earnings and loss of access to the canteen. Segregation is not a punishment.

Winfield had had genital surgery, and a Gender Recognition Certificate, but when I read about her first she was referred to by her former name, Martin Ponting. I repeat the name in case you come across it elsewhere: she is Jessica. She changed her name ten years ago, but was only transferred to a women’s prison in March.

Female inmates might reasonably object to a rapist in their general population. Winfield needed protection, and the Sun reported that she was punished for wrongdoing. How civilised a country is can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable people. The crimes are monstrous, but the punishment should be the loss of liberty, not violence and the fear of violence in gaol. Jade Eatough did not deserve to die.

Their transitions show how desperate a trans woman can be. They transition in a male prison, as only at the end of the process can they be sent to a women’s prison. They might hope to be unobtrusive in male role, but they have the courage or single-mindedness to transition. They do it for the same reason we all do, that it will make their lives better: that life marked out as a weirdo and victim in prison is preferable to life as a man.

There are about eighty trans folk in prison in England and Wales. Their punishment should be no more painful or onerous than any other person in prison. There were five trans deaths in prison between 2008 and 2016. That is a higher risk of death than anyone else faces.

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