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14 August 2019, 06:17 | Updated: 14 August 2019, 06:38
Concerns have been raised about the "humane treatment" of transgender inmates living as women in a men's prison.
The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Nottingham raised the matter in its annual report on the state of the prison. It called on justice ministers to consider whether the newly-opened transgender wing at HMP Downview was adequate to accommodate the transgender population across the whole prison estate.
The report, which looked at how the category B prison operated between March 2018 and February 2019, said: "Issues relating to protected characteristics are not drawn to our attention in large numbers and there is a general level of tolerance towards different groups within the prison community.
"However, the exception to this has been the experience of transgender prisoners who are trying to live as females in a male establishment, which creates many difficulties for them and raises issues about humane treatment.
"We have been engaged with a number of such prisoners and have tried to represent their interests to the prison, recognising that senior staff have been trying to find satisfactory arrangements in each case.
"Numbers are very small, and it would be inappropriate to specify issues here which might be identifiable to individuals concerned.
"We note that a small special unit has now been opened at HMP Downview and it is to be hoped that more transgender prisoners will be able to benefit from such differentiated accommodation in future."
As part of its findings, it asked: "Will the minister consider whether the transgender unit recently opened at HMP Downview is adequate to provide for the transgender population across the whole prison estate?"
It emerged in March that transgender prisoners would be held in their own unit for the first time in the UK, without access to other inmates. A wing of the HMP Downview women's prison in Surrey was separated off to house three inmates who have transitioned to being women and hold gender recognition certificates.
Nottingham was one of five prisons alongside Exeter, Birmingham, Bedford and Bristol which prompted the chief inspector of prisons to raise significant concerns with the justice secretary under the Urgent Notification process.
The concerns were raised with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) just before the IMB began observing conditions at the prison for its report.
The board said: "Many of the issues we reported in our previous report and which had given rise to the Urgent Notification continued well into this reporting period."
Problems caused by staff shortages, concerns over undetected and unpunished violence all continued to be noted but improved as the year progressed.
The IMB also raised concerns about the difficulties of transferring prisoners with severe mental health problems to facilities where they can be treated effectively, adding: "The board would like to see greater availability of more suitable locations for these prisoners."