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Prisons ordered to remove Pride flags that ‘promote gender ideology’

The Progress Pride flag outside HMP Wandsworth
The Progress Pride flag outside HMP Wandsworth

Two prisons have been ordered to remove Pride flags that promoted “gender ideology”.

HMP Pentonville and HMP Wandsworth, both category B men’s prisons in London, were flying the Progress Pride flag above their front entrances, including extra stripes to represent transgender people.

It sparked a complaint to the Ministry of Justice from Conservative MP Nick Fletcher, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on men and boys, who said it “promotes the idea you can be born in the wrong body”.

Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, has now ordered the two prisons to take down the “incorrect” flags and is sending guidance to other governors to “remind” them of flag rules.

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All prisons are required to follow the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities guidance on “Flying Flags: a plain English guide”, which allows them to fly the six-stripe “rainbow flag” and some have done so for several years.

This was the widely-used Pride flag until it was updated by activists in recent years to include trans, race and intersex symbols, known as the Progress Pride flag.

In a letter on Tuesday titled “gender ideology flag being flown above prisons in London”, seen by The Telegraph, Mr Chalk said: “Whilst every prison is expected to fly the Union Flag, an establishment may also fly additional flags. This is limited, however, to those stipulated in the aforementioned guidance.

“The six-stripe Rainbow flag is one of the flags authorised to be flown should an establishment wish to do so, but this permission does not extend to any other representative versions, including the one incorrectly flown.

“Therefore, those at HMP Pentonville and HMP Wandsworth have been duly taken down. We will work with our Estates colleagues to remind all our institutions of the regulations regarding the flying of flags on MoJ property.”

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk's letter
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk's letter

Mr Fletcher, the Tory MP for Don Valley, said: “The Progress Pride flag promotes the idea you can be born in the wrong body. You can’t. This ideology harms vulnerable people. I’m pleased the Secretary of State for Justice has taken action.

“Much more work is needed from Government ministers to remove the influence of this ideology from across government departments. It undermines science, free speech, women’s rights, and child safeguarding.”

Other flags allowed at public bodies include any sports club, providing it does not include sponsorship logos, specified award schemes such as Eco-Schools, Queen’s Awards for Enterprise and Investors in People, the NHS flag and certain environmental awards.

Some members of the public took to social media to raise concern about HMP Wandsworth’s Progress Pride flag in September after it came to their attention when prisoner Daniel Khalife was accused of going on the run. He has pleaded not guilty to escaping the prison and is due to stand trial.

The row over prison Pride flags comes as it emerged in September that the gender identity toolkit for prison and probation staff accuses “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (Terfs)” and “gender critical feminists” of being “the driving force of anti-trans hate in the UK”.

Mr Chalk has ordered a review after officials were accused of breaching the civil service code with the toolkit, entitled “Understanding & working with Trans, Intersex and Non-Binary individuals” and published on the Ministry of Justice intranet.

Last year, an email sent through the HM Prison and Probation Service diversity and inclusion team said staff should not use the term “protecting women and girls” in order to be trans allies.

The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for comment on the Pride flags.

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