- Dr. Alison Spurgeon-Dickson was recognized for her pioneering research on the plight of prisoners who identify as transgender.
- Her research paved the way for an invitation to contribute on the review on the health and social care needs of transgender prisoners.
- Findings from her study revealed the binary nature with which the country’s prison system is built, designed to only cater to the needs of its male and female prisoners.
A university professor was recognized for her pioneering research on the plight of prisoners who identify as transgender according to transgender news article posted by Cumbria website on February 12.
Dr. Alison Spurgeon-Dickson, an academic from the university, was one of the selected few in the academic circle in the United Kingdom conducting research into the under-reported experience of incarcerated offenders who identified as transgender.
Dr. Dickson collected primary evidence on the experience of transgender offenders in the country’s prison system. She had conducted extensive interviews and analysis of diary entries with subjects who had experience of several prison facilities.
Catching the attention of Lord Patel of Bradford OBE, her research paved the way for her invitation to contribute on the review on the health and social care needs of transgender prisoners.
Later on, she was invited to a reception at the House of Lords for the launch of the said review called “Inside gender identity: a report on meeting health and social care needs of transgender people in the criminal justice system” last January 23.
When interviewed, Dr. Dickson said that the goal of her study was to come up with a better understanding and to increase awareness on the special needs of transgender prisoners, as well as determine and share best practice across the entire criminal justice system.
“We must have greater awareness of gender variations so that transgender prisoners can be better accommodated within binary institutions,” the professor said.
She also explained that the word transgender is a universal term for a range of gender identities and understanding this concept would lead prison facilities to better provide care and service for transgender individuals.
“‘Transgender’ is an umbrella term that collectively describes a range of gender identities. More specific identification of the variations could enable prisons to better meet the individual needs of their transgender prisoners,” she said.
Findings from her study revealed the binary nature with which the country’s prison system is built, designed to only cater to the needs of its male and female prisoners. She stated that this does not match the current reality on the fluidity of gender that is evident in society today.
“Not all transgender individuals seek medical interventions to masculinise or feminise their appearance, but may express their gender identities in other ways,” she said. “Gender diversity can be seen by some as going against culturally accepted gender norms.”
She also mentioned that there are a few people who experienced shifts in their gender identity.
“Gender identity does not always present as static, and there are some people whose gender definition is more fluid,” she said.
The professor suggested that housing all transgender individuals under one establishment is a way to address the current needs of transgender prisoners and to better equitably utilize limited resources. Her recommendation would be up for deliberation in the parliament level.
The review was the first ever comprehensive investigation on the issues and needs of transgender prisoners experience within the country’s criminal justice system. Future action plans include a formation of an all-party parliamentary group that would look into the recommendations presented by the review.