Transgender woman kills herself in an all-male prison
from various sources – December 2016
submitted by – Taibah Arif
Updates listed at the foot of this item
Vikki Thompson, aged 21; a vulnerable transgender women, was sent to an all-male prison (HMP Armley in Leeds) despite being at risk off self-harm. She took her own life on 13 November 2015. A Prison Service spokesperson said: “HMP Leeds prisoner Vikki Thompson was found unresponsive on the evening of Friday, 13 November. Emergency services were called and she was pronounced dead 38 minutes later.
She was sentenced for robbery and given a 12-month jail term after she robbed a teenager of her mobile phone and stole toiletries and cosmetics from two shops. This was suspended for 24 months. There was speculation that she may have later breached the terms of the sentence, and was remanded in custody at Bradford Crown Court.
Friends of Vikki from Keighley Yorkshire (who was born male but had identified as a female since her mid-teens) said she has asked to be sent to a female prison and contacted prison authorities about her vulnerability. She had previously said she would ‘kill herself’ if she was sent to an all-male prison.
Her solicitor Mr Mohammed Hussain advised the judge that Vikki was a woman and asked for her to be sent to a female prison. He also asked for her sentenced to be reduced if she was to be sent to a male prison. The judge had also been made aware that Vikki had mentioned that she would kill herself if she was sent to a male prison.
Vikki was clearly unhappy about being sent to an all-male prison and this was further demonstrated through letters sent to her partner, Bob Steele. He stated; “the letter should have alerted officials to her apparent distress” and added he had been “robbed of the love of my life”.
In the letter Vikki said: “I just feel like I don’t want to be here no more”. She signed off the letter saying: “I’m going now because I can’t stop crying”.
Vikki’s death was caused by hanging herself. Despite her letters no notice or action was taken to ensure her welfare and safety were protected.
After her death an inquest heard that she was considered to be a risk of harm and therefore should be monitored regularly. Her partner had said that she was very unhappy and hated being in a male prison due to the vile remarks and comments she received. When she was checked at 7pm, she was seen lying on her bed giving no apparent cause for concern, the inquest heard. But at a later check at 8.10pm she could not be seen – so staff went into her cell.
She was subsequently moved to a sex offender’s wing. Her partner said of this; ‘She was on a wing with people that were done for sexually abusing people and other things like that, which I think is wrong because she was groomed as a child.’
According to United Kingdom Law all transgender people are sent to either a male or female prison depending on the gender recorded on their birth certificate. In Vikki’s case she was still registered as male and therefore was sent to male prison.
Authorities were aware of the fact that Vikki was a transgender and that she was abused when she was a child, however none of these factors were taken in to consideration.
Manchester-based charity Sparkle, which supports transgender people, said in a statement; ‘The housing of transgender women in male prisons is an abhorrent practice that needs to come to an end immediately.
“The risk to such prisoners from attack and sexual assault is massive, but what is very clear by this tragic news is that the risk to that person’s mental health is what will kill them.
“There needs to be a discussion about the way we imprison those that identify as Trans and there needs to be an end to the practice of imprisoning Trans people in prisons that are categorised as other than their gender”.
Although the United Kingdom Law states that criminals are to be sent to a male or female prison according to the gender stated on their birth certificate, the Government have pledged to start recording the number of transgender people in prison for the first time ever.
Caroline Dinenage, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice, said in a statement; “The management and care of transgender people in prison is a complex issue and one that the Government takes very seriously. NOMS is committed to incorporating equality and diversity into everything it does and treating offenders with decency and respect.
“The review will develop recommendations for revised guidelines which cover the future shape of prison and probation services for transgender prisoners and offenders in the community”.
Transgender woman Vikki Thompson found dead at Armley jail
19 November 2015