Corrections fast-tracks approval to shift trans woman prisoner from Rimutaka
The Department of Corrections has agreed to shift a transgender prisoner to a women's facility.
It came as the prisoner's lawyer has questioned why a person who identified as a woman and was undergoing hormone therapy was put in a men's prison in the first place.
On Thursday Rimutaka Prison director Chris Burns confirmed the request by transgender prisoner Jade Follett had been approved.
"Corrections has a duty of care to all prisoners. We are very much aware and sympathetic to the particular needs of transgender prisoners including the issues surrounding their placement and safety."
Follett's transfer will be the fifth since the transgender and intersex prisoner policy took effect in February 2014.
On Wednesday transgender activists threatened to go on hunger strike unless Corrections moved Follett from Rimutaka Prison to a women's facility.
It comes after reports the prisoner, "a strong woman", had to front up to threats in the men's prison.
About 10 members of the No Pride in Prisons group launched the hunger strike on Karangahape Rd in Auckland on Thursday, spokeswoman Jennifer Shields said.
She said the group had been on the hunger strike for about five hours before hearing that Follett's transfer had been approved.
The group was pleased the request was approved, but it was "only the start", she said.
"Jade shouldn't have been put in a prison in the first place, their policy isn't working. There would be a system at the start that assessed who they are, their gender, their risk, and put them in the right facility right away."
Previously Shields said Follett had requested the move about two months ago but had not heard back from Corrections.
On Wednesday, Burns said Corrections received a request over the weekend from a transgender prisoner to be moved to a prison that accommodated prisoners of their identified gender.
"No other transfer requests of this nature have been made this year."
Burns said Corrections would treat the request "with urgency".
Shields said Follett was a strong woman but had been threatened several times in the prison.
"But people have backed down once she stood up for herself."
She said people who thought Follett should be in a men's prison did not understand her situation.
"These women are super high risk of sexual assault, it's not a safe place for them to be in."
Follett was sentenced to 21 months in prison on July 4 on a charge of injuring with intent, after she stabbed a man aged in his 40s.
Her lawyer Elizabeth Hall said Follett she should never have been put in a men's prison in the first place.
Hall said Follett simply preferred to be called a woman, rather than transgender.
"It was clear she was under hormone therapy, so why does she get put in a men's prison?"
The initial request for a transfer was given by Follett to a Corrections officer on June 29 or 30, Hall said.
Because Follett never heard back about her request, she simply filed a second request, rather than follow up on the first.
This was the request that Corrections mentioned this week, that had been made on the weekend.
Hall said Follett would be shifted to Arohata Prison in Tawa.