Law and Sexuality

A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests

Some People Are Gay…in Prison?

Feltham Young Offenders Institute appears to be in some hot water according to Pink News. They report that Prison staff at the Feltham Young Offenders Institute refused official recommendations to display positive images of gay and bisexual relationships to inmates, according to a report released today.

They don’t include a link to the full report but it can be viewed here.   The report seems more positive on equalities than the picture painted by the Pink News Story.  Of greater concern for me was that young people didn’t always have access to free telephone calls to their legal representatives but they did have relevant legal books in the library.  Seriously folks?  That’s adequate for the demography likely to be needing advice?  (let alone a breach of legal rights).  

Anyhow, the fact prison officers resisted the display of the posters is disheartening but I suspect it came from a culture in which such posters  -it was specifically the Stonewall posters – might have led to increased bullying etc.  Feltham does, the report indicates, have issues with gangs to the extent of riots and in that environment the prison officers might think the Stonewall posters are inappropriate – for a host of reasons.  It doesn’t necessarily indicate homophobia on their part.  I’d rather the posters were up, but this seems an area that the Inspectorate should have probed more, and groups such as the Howard League for Penal Reform should be less quick to condemn (as they do in the Pink News piece).

The report points to positive treatment of one trans inmate, stating:

‘A transgender young person who arrived during the inspection was interviewed on the day of his arrival by the liaison officer to assess and address his needs. He was placed on a unit with a higher than average staffing level to address his support needs. Staff told us that they had previously put in place a programme of support for transgender young people, including the opportunity to wear suitable clothing for their preferred gender.’

On sexualities, the report concludes that:

‘Some impressive work had been undertaken to support gay and bisexual young people and to raise awareness of issues among young people and staff.’

Hardly condemnation.  The report and the Pink News story point to the presence of a group – PRIDE – as a positive sign but many years of report writing made me question thesis action.  The report writes (and this bit is repeated in the Pink News report):

‘A support group for gay young people, PRIDE, had been established which met whenever there were young people who wanted to attend it. All young people were told about it on induction, which provided an opportunity for young people to offer information about their sexual orientation if they wished.’

So, how often has it met? How many people attend? What do they do? How useful did people find it.  As currently phrased, this sounds like something that exists on paper but not in practical reality.

Read the full Pink news story here.

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This entry was posted on December 20, 2011 by in activism, campaign, Community, equality, Identity, Law, prison, Stonewall.

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