Cabinet has signed off on changes which will allow both new and existing prisoners to 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."
Auckland Universityâ€™s student run pro bono Equal Justice Project released a report earlier this year stating the rights of trans prisoners were being ignored by Corrections policy.
It says the policy change is a positive development for transgender prisoners in New Zealand.
However the group agrees with lawyer and trans advocate Kelly Ellis that there are still some issues to be ironed out.
The Equal Justice Project points out trans people in prison still face legal and administrative obstacles regarding the recognition of their preferred gender in official documents, such as birth certificates.
â€śWe therefore urge further change to the new policy so that the placement of transgender prisoners without an updated birth certificate is not contingent upon the Chief Executiveâ€™s discretion,â€ť the group says.
It also believes there is more to be done to ensure transgender prisoners are treated with dignity, respect and equality. It cites the example of access to medical treatment, such as hormone replacement therapy.
â€śNevertheless, we commend the Department of Corrections for displaying a willingness to engage with some of the issues transgender prisoners face â€“ issues that have necessitated a new approach to correctional norms.
â€śPublic discussion will give rise to greater understanding of these issues and the need for further reform. An open and inclusive dialogue is essential if New Zealand is to demonstrate its continued commitment to human rights.â€ť