And Corrections has clarified that the new policy will also apply to intersex people.
Earlier this week Cabinet approved a much-awaited revised approach to the historical placement of prisoners in male or female prisons according to their birth sex and would only take into account a person's transgender status if they had undergone gender reassignment surgery.
"There are now a number of steps to follow including the making and gazetting of regulations," says Corrections' Director, Offender Health, Bronwyn Donaldson. "As such it is too early to say when the policy will come into effect."
Under the new regulations new and existing prisoners will be able apply at any time to the Corrections Chief Executive for placement in a prison "where they identify with the gender of that prison."
If an application is unsuccessful, "transgender prisoners will be accommodated according to the sex recorded on their birth certificate." This will also apply to prisoners who have been granted a Family Court declaration amending their sex details, Donaldson says.
If a prisoner has had a change of gender recorded on their birth certificate they will be automatically placed in a prison based on that gender.
However, "no prisoner will be permitted to make an application for placement if they have sexually offended against a person of the same gender as the prisoners they wish to be co-located with," according to Donaldson.
Corrections is not anticipating any changes at individual prisons to accommodate the new policy, saying that all current prisons have suitable facilities to house transgender and intersex prisoners.
Historically transgender prisoners have suffered abuse and even rape after being placed in facilities where the other prisoners are of a different sex. Under the new arrangements "every application for placement will be considered on its own merits and the utmost consideration will be given before a decision is made."
Donaldson says factors that will be considered include "any risk the prisoner may pose to the safety of other prisoners and the security of the prison, based on the nature of their offending and other relevant factors; any risk that other prisoners may pose to the safety of the prisoner making the application; and whether it is likely the prisoner will need to be subject to restrictive management measures, for safety or other reasons.
"This, and other factors, will ensure that no
prisoner is put in harmâ€™s way due to their placement,"
according to Donaldson. She did not elaborate on what the other factors will be.
Corrections is unable to say how many prisoners are likely to be affected by the new policy. "Due to the sensitive nature this is not an easy number to confirm," Donaldson says. "There is a small number of current prisoners who would be eligible for consideration for placement, the exact number may change on a daily basis."