Prison Justice is an LGBT Rights Issue

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CrimJustSystem-graphicFor the millions of LGBT people incarcerated each year, the sentence is only the beginning. Oftentimes, what happens behind bars is worse than what the state mandates.

Five percent of LGBT people in America have been incarcerated in the past five years. That rate is almost double the 2.7 percent incarceration rate for the general public and points to a major crisis in justice for LGBT people in the U.S. And within the LGBT community, certain groups remain particularly vulnerable.

A survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian task force revealed that a whopping 16 percent of transgender people – and 47 percent of Black transgender people – have been incarcerated.

Lack of family support, homelessness, and social and economic discrimination – all issues that disproportionately oppress LGBT people – conspire to put LGBT people in conditions that often include physical and verbal aggression, and sexual abuse.

The effects of incarceration on this already-vulnerable population are devastating.

“From every angle, the justice system is broken for transgender and gender nonconforming people,” the authors of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey wrote in a 2011 report. “Instead of administering justice, it perpetrates injustice.”

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2009 Handbook on Prisoners With Special Needs puts it more bluntly: “Transgender and intersex (TGI) people experience extreme physical, sexual and emotional abuse and brutality while imprisoned,” the report says.

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