World

Transgender Woman Discovered Dead In All-Male Prison

| by Nicholas Roberts
Entrance To HMP Armley In Leeds, England.Entrance To HMP Armley In Leeds, England.

A transgender woman was discovered dead on Nov. 13 at an all-male prison in Leeds, England.

Vicki Thompson, 21, was sent to Armley, a men's prison in Leeds, after she reportedly violated the terms of her bail, according to Metro. She was given a 12-month sentence in August 2015, which was to be suspended for two years.

Thompson had identified as a woman since her teen years, but did not undergo gender reassignment surgery. Her boyfriend, Robert Steele, said Thompson disliked staying at Armley because she was frequently taunted and harassed by the male prisoners. Metro reports that Thompson requested to be transferred to an all-female prison, but was denied.  

Thompson reportedly told friends she would kill herself if she were sent to Armley, according to Metro and The Guardian. Her body was discovered unresponsive on the evening of Nov. 13.

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British activists and politicians have expressed outrage with the case, and have noted that Nov. 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The Guardian reports that in response to Thompson's death, the government plans to compile and release data on the numbers of transgender prisoners in British prisons. Tim Farron, the leader of the U.K.'s Liberal Democrats, wrote in a letter to Justice Secretary Michael Gove that Thompson's death was a tragedy that "could have and should have been avoided."

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous addressed Parliament on Nov. 20, stating that changes to the custody policy regarding transgender inmates are undergoing review and will be implemented soon.

“The management and care of trans people in prison is a complex issue and the review is using the expertise developed by Noms [National Offender Management Service] practitioners as well as engaging with relevant stakeholders, including those from the trans community," Selous said to members of Parliament.

Ruth Hunt, chief executive of LGBTQ group Stonewall, said Thompson's death was shocking and saddening, and urgently recommend a change in the law.

Sources: Metro, The Guardian / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons