Page last updated at 18:08 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Italy 'to open first prison for transgender inmates'

Exterior of prison in Perugia, Italy
Many prisons in Italy suffer from overcrowding

Italy is to open one of the world's first prisons for transgender inmates, reports say.

The prison, at Pozzale, near the Tuscan city of Florence, is expected to house inmates who mainly have convictions for drug-related offences and prostitution.

Gay rights groups in Italy welcomed the move to convert an almost empty medium security women's prison into a specially equipped detention centre.

It is thought that Italy has a total of some 60 transgender prisoners.

The centre will house about 30 people, according to reports.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy, in Rome, says that until now transgender prisoners have been located in women's prisons where they are often segregated for their own safety.

Psychological support

Leading gay rights groups say they welcome the new prison as a dedicated space providing the psychological support transgender prisoners need.

However, one local council official has said she cannot understand why the Pozzale prison had remained almost empty for so long.

"There are at least 30 to 40 women held in nearby prisons who would be ready to be transferred to a medium-security centre such as Pozzale. But very restrictive entry requirements were imposed," Franco Corleone told Italian news agency Adnkronos.

According to Italian newspaper Il Giornale, the prison only has two inmates at present but has a staff of 22 people.

The prison has its own library, recreation centre, football pitch and agricultural land which produces olive oil and wine.

Inmates also have their own cell and are given a personal development plan.

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