By Andrew M. Potts
Italy is to open the world’s first prison facility to cater solely for transgendered people.
The 30-bed facility, in the town of Pozzale, near Florence in Tuscany, was formerly a women’s prison, but by the end of last year its population had dwindled to just two inmates despite employing a staff of 22 people.
Starting later this year, the prison will be used to house around half of Italy’s 60 transgendered prison inmates, most of whom were arrested for offences relating to sex work or drug use.
Prostitution in itself is not illegal in Italy, however, solicitation for paid sex and for brothels are both outlawed.
The medium security facility has a gym, library and outdoor recreational areas including a soccer field. A working prison farm inside its gates produces olive oil and wine for sale and provides inmates with employment.
Each prisoner will have a cell to themselves and will be offered a personal development plan to assist them in not re-offending.
Previously, transgendered prisoners were housed in women’s prisons with regular inmates. Threats and violence from other prisoners, however, mean they are often segregated within jails for their own protection, denying them equal use of prison facilities.
Those transgendered prisoners unable to find a place in the new jail will remain in the regular Italian prison system.
Italian GLBT rights advocates have welcomed the new facility and hope it will provide transgendered prisoners with support tailored to their needs.