Home | Browse Topics | Prisoner's rights | Starting your sentence | Transgender and non-binary people

Prisoner's rights

Starting your sentence

Transgender and non-binary people

What if I’m transgender?

Corrections Regulations 2005, regs 65, 65A-65E; Prison Operations Manual, I.10, M.03.05

The starting point when entering prison is that you are assigned to a prison that matches the sex recorded on your birth certificate.

Transgender people in prison can ask to be in a prison that matches their gender identity. If you’re transgender and have been placed in the wrong prison, you should make this clear during your assessment or inform the prison manager through your PCO.

If you are transgender or non-binary your gender identity must be respected. The prison must act in a way that seeks to preserve your dignity, safety and privacy and enables you to maintain your gender identity. Your treatment in prison is not dependent on whether you have legal recognition of your gender identity, or whether you have undergone medical treatment.

If you’re not transferred to a different prison, you’re entitled to have this decision reviewed. The review will take into account a number of factors, including:

  • your gender identity (Corrections refer to this as your “nominated sex”)
  • evidence of you actively identifying as that gender outside prison, including the length of time
  • a doctor’s opinion
  • your safety
  • other prisoners’ safety.

if you have convictions for sexual offences, you can’t be transferred to a prison housing people of the gender you were convicted of offending against.

For information, see “Changing my legal documents” in the “Gender and sexuality” chapter in the Community Law Manual

What if I’m non-binary?

Prison Operations Manual I.10.01

If you don’t have a “nominated sex”, the prison may make their own decision and classify you as either male or female. Usually this will depend on a doctor’s opinion, which will most likely be based simply on the sex you were assigned at birth. You’ll then be placed in a male or female prison accordingly.

However, it’s possible that the prison may choose to use the same processes for non-binary people as is available to transgender prisoners when they apply to be placed in a gendered prison. The Prison Operations Manual says that “a person’s ability to identify with a particular gender, or no gender, must be respected.”

Can I maintain my identity while in prison?

Prison Operations Manual I.10.07

Yes, your name and pronouns must be used and you must be given access to clothing and items that you would normally use to maintain your identity, including binders, prosthesis, padded bras, and tape for tucking.

Will my name and pronouns be respected?

Prison Operations Manual I.10.06

Yes, the prison must use your preferred name and pronouns when communicating with you and in all communications and interactions, including in offender notes, offender plans and reports.

What about my safety?

Prison Operations Manual I.10.07

A management plan must be developed with you that includes how you will be safe while in prison. For example, if there are no showering facilities in your cell, you can arrange to take showers when no other prisoners are using the shower area.

Can I share a cell if I am transgender or non-binary?

Prison Operations Manual, I.08.10, I.10.07

If you’re transgender you must be put in a single cell. You can apply to be put in a shared cell with another transgender or non-binary prisoner that matches your gender identity and you both agree to double-bunking. The prison will make the final decision.

Next Section | Minimum entitlements

Did this answer your question?

Starting your sentence

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

Also available as a book

Lag Law: Prisoner's Rights

Lag Law answers heaps of common questions you might have if you’re going to prison, you’re in prison, or you’re getting out of prison. It talks about your rights in prison, and sets out the laws and rules that affect you when you’re put in prison . 1 free copy for people in prison and the whānau of someone in prison. If that’s you, email laglaw@wclc.org.nz for your free copy

Buy Lag Law: Prisoner's Rights

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top