Prison for serious sex offenders to distribute pronoun badges during National Inclusion Week

·5 min read
The gender pronoun badges that will be handed out
The gender pronoun badges that will be handed out

A prison that holds rapists, paedophiles and sex offenders is handing out gender pronoun badges ahead of its inclusion week.

The official Twitter account for HMP Isle of Wight - the jail that oversees both HMP Albany and HMP Parkhurst, which each hold almost exclusively those convicted of serious sexual offences - tweeted at the weekend about its inclusion plans.

The account posted a picture of six lilac covered badges with various pronouns including “he/they”, “her/they”, “they/them” and the more common two of “she/her” and “he/him”.

Another simply had the words: “ask me” written across.

HMP Isle of Wight tweeted: “In preparation for National Inclusion Week our equalities team have started distributing pronoun badges. What’s your pronoun?”

The tweet then went on to list the hashtags “inclusion”, “equality”, “diversity” and “unitedforinclusion”.

Reaction to tweet

The post received a number of replies criticising the proposal. One commented: “This must be a joke? In a high security male estate you are seriously giving out pronoun badges.

“Someone is trying to justify their job. Maybe get rid of the inclusion team and employ counsellors/ teachers. Stunning waste of money.”

Another questioned the safety of such a move, tweeting: “You'd wear badges around in a prison? Surely that's dangerous? You could inflict a nasty injury with a spiky bit of metal.”

Various others questioned if the account was a parody.

The tweet did not outline if the pins will be given out to staff, visitors or inmates and The Ministry of Justice and the prison both declined to comment or answer any query on the matter.

The Category B men’s prison is currently home to a plethora of highly dangerous sex offenders including Darryl Rowe, the hairdresser who purposely infected men he picked up on gay dating app Grindr with HIV.

More than 1,000 inmates are currently held across the two sites. Past convicts include the Yorkshire Ripper - aka Peter Sutcliffe - and the Kray twins.

Guidance on transgender prisoners

In March this year, the Parole Board released a 14-page document entitled: “Guidance on Prisoners who are Transgender”, which included 25 glossary terms for gender.

Terms included “cross-dresser”, “non-binary”, “gender-queer” and “transvestite person”.

The document advises parole panel members: “When addressing the prisoner at a hearing, the conventions outlined...should be used.

“If there is any doubt, the panel should take the opportunity to check with the prisoner in person what form of name and term of address is preferred.

“This may require confirming at the appropriate point during introductions, how the prisoner wishes to be addressed in the hearing, then using the chosen name and gender-appropriate form of address.

“Being prepared for the prisoner to possibly look and sound different to your preconceptions of how a person of that gender would usually appear.

“Asking sensitively what the prisoner would prefer to be called formally in Parole Board decision letters or adjournment notices.”

Previous controversy

It went on to tell readers: “If a panel member makes a mistake by referring to someone by using a pronoun or form of address that does not correctly reflect their acquired gender, an immediate, simple apology is appropriate.”

The badges are not the first controversy the prison has been embroiled in. It was reported last year that inmates held there were being given X-boxes for good behaviour.

In January, a 32-year-old probation officer and mother of three - Lauren McIntyre - was found guilty of having a sexual relationship with Andrew Roberts - an inmate who had violently killed his girlfriend and baby.

The affair lasted four months and she had provided him with the phone number of another worker at the prison, who Roberts later attacked. McIntyre was sentenced to three years.

A report released in January 2020 that scrutinised the prison found that it was grossly overcrowded, with about 200 prisoners sharing cells designed to hold one.

The report stated: “About 200 prisoners were sharing in cells that were designed for one prisoner. Most of these cells had toilets which were poorly screened…

“Night sanitation was in place for most prisoners on the Albany site. This system was unsatisfactory and it had broken down in the past.

Inclusion week

“Prisoners on these wings had a chemical toilet in their cells, but we found that many lacked access to the chemicals that would make them function properly.”

Inclusion week will be held this week across the country, ending on Sunday. Various companies and government initiatives are expected to demonstrate how they plan on making their organisations more diverse.

Conservative MP Tim Loughton, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, condemned the badges as "pandering to serious criminals".

He told The Telegraph: "Oh dear so now woke has broken into prison too.

"There is a real problem in this country with getting sex offenders convicted and behind bars in the first place so the last thing we need to be pandering to is making sure serious criminals have their personal pronouns respected.

"They are in jail to be punished and rehabilitated and this will further undermine the confidence of the survivors of sexual attacks who have already been put through enough trauma by their attackers and then again having to relive those experiences in court."

Ian Acheson, a former prison governor, said: "The Isle of Wight cluster contains nearly a thousand sex offenders, many of them sentenced for very serious crimes. Instead of obsessing over pronouns for rapists and paedophiles, perhaps the prison service should invest its time and energy fixing a treatment programme that some research shows makes them worse.

"It’s getting harder and harder to see HMPPS as a law enforcement agency with public protection at its heart. The Justice Secretary Mr Dominic Raab has some urgent work to do."