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Second transgender prison death in a month

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Following news of the death of transgender woman Vicky Thompson at HMP Leeds last month, further reports have emerged this week of the death of another transgender prison at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes.

Joanne Latham, aged 38 years old, was apparently found hanging in her cell at the all male prison in the early hours of Friday 30 November. It is reported that Ms Latham barricaded the door of her cell and was later found by a prison officer. From the little that is known about Ms Latham at present it appears that she was in the early stages of gender reassignment. As with all cases where individuals have died in custody Joanne Latham’s death will be subject to an investigation by the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman which will now be underway.

Following Thompson’s death in November 2015 the government has agreed to provide figures on the number of transgender prisoners in our jails. A previous estimate by the Ministry of Justice is that there are around 80 transgender prisoners currently in prison (this is in a prison population of 85, 977 male prisoners and 3,935 female prisoners). Of those currently in custody it is not known how many transgender prisoners are being housed in prisons with others of the same gender, and how many are being housed in prisons that do not recognise their transgender status.

A review of policies in relation to transgender prisoners has begun and prisons minister Andrew Selous has told MPs that there are plans for new guidance to be implemented. Several MPs have voiced their concerns about the current policy following the death of Thompson and there is a clear push for change from transgender rights campaigners. It is to be hoped that there are no further casualties of this nature whilst this review is ongoing.

The author of this article is Rebecca Treece, who is part of the civil liberties team at Leeds based solicitors Lester Morrill.

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