Are There Any Unisex Prisons in the UK?

Prison Info

In the United Kingdom, the prison system is predominantly segregated by gender, meaning there are separate institutions for men and women. However, it’s important to note that transgender individuals may be housed in prisons that align with their self-identified gender rather than their sex at birth. This complex issue often raises questions about privacy, safety, and rights of individuals within the prison system.

The current state of gender-segregated prisons

  • The majority of prisons in the UK, such as HMP Wormwood Scrubs, HMP Full Sutton, and HMP Grendon, are designed to house inmates of a specific gender. There are over 80 men’s prisons and just over a dozen women’s prisons.
  • Typically, women’s prisons are smaller and have a different approach to rehabilitation, reflecting the different societal roles and challenges faced by female inmates.
  • Men’s prisons are designed to handle a larger volume of inmates and are more spread out geographically.

That said, the question often arises: Are there any unisex prisons in the UK? The answer is a little complex.

Unisex Prisons in the UK?

As it stands, there are no officially designated unisex prisons within the United Kingdom’s prison system. However, the UK has guidelines in place to protect the rights and dignity of transgender individuals within the prison system.

Transgender individuals may be placed in a prison that aligns with their self-identified gender, not necessarily their biological sex at birth. This can result in prisons housing both biological males and females under specific circumstances.

For example, HMP Downview was the first UK prison to open a unit specifically for transgender women in 2019. This marked a shift in acknowledging and accommodating the unique needs and rights of transgender inmates.

Still, these are not considered “unisex” prisons, but rather gender-specific prisons with certain adjustments or units to accommodate transgender inmates.

Developments and Challenges

Accommodating transgender individuals within the prison system comes with challenges and controversies. Concerns about safety, privacy, and potential abuses of the system are often voiced.

  • Some worry that the system might be abused by inmates falsely claiming to be transgender to gain access to facilities of the opposite sex.
  • It raises questions about the safety and privacy of other inmates, particularly in women’s prisons where there may be a risk of male-bodied individuals housed with them.
  • There is also the issue of ensuring that transgender individuals are safe and not targeted by other inmates.

These challenges highlight the need for both physical facilities and policies that respect and protect everyone’s rights and safety.

What about Non-Binary individuals?

Non-binary individuals, or those who do not identify strictly as male or female, pose another challenge to the gender-segregated prison system. While there are no designated non-binary prisons within the UK, these individuals are generally placed in a facility that corresponds with their sex at birth.

However, some prisons are making efforts to create more inclusive environments for non-binary individuals, acknowledging their unique needs and experiences.


In conclusion, while there are no unisex prisons in the UK, the prison system has been evolving to better accommodate transgender and non-binary individuals. This has resulted in gender-specific prisons with units or policies that allow for some degree of gender-mixing under specific and controlled circumstances. It’s a complex and evolving issue, with ongoing discussions around safety, rights, and providing appropriate facilities.

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