Relentlessly victimized: LGBTQ+ people under the U.S criminal justice system

From the juvenile system to paroles, the data doesn’t lie—there is a profound inequity in representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals at each juncture of our criminal

We go to the Prison Policy Initiative for this week’s report, “Visualizing the unequal treatment of LGBTQ people in the criminal justice system.” Researchers have found that LGBTQ people make up a profoundly uneven percentage of incarcerated individuals.

  • 20% of people in the juvenile justice system are LGBTQ+ while 4-6% of the general youth population are LGBTQ+

  • 40% of girls in the juvenile system are lesbian, bisexual, queer, or gender nonconforming

  • These statistics are chiefly due to situations LGBTQ+ people face after leaving unaccepting or abusive households at a young age.

  • In order to survive, these individuals are often pushed toward drug sales, theft, or survival sex which intensify their risk of being arrested.

  • LGBTQ+ people are arrested at 2.25 times more likely to be arrested than straight individuals according to arrest records from over the last year

  • The disproportionate rates of arrest come mainly from lesbian and bisexual women who are four times more likely to arrested than straight women; gay and bisexual men are 1.35 times as likely to be arrested than straight men

  • These trends continue with incarceration as LGBTQ+ people are often found to be sentenced to longer sentences and inhumane treatment while incarcerated according to the National Inmate Survey.

  • Additionally, BIPOC LGBTQ+ people are twice as likely to be subjected to solitary confinement as white LGBTQ+ people.

  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that lesbian, gay, and bisexual men and women are 10 times are likely to be a victim of sexual abuse by another incarcerated person and 2.6 times as likely to be victimized by a staff member as heterosexual people in prison.

  • Overall, people on parole or probation are nearly twice as likely to be LGBTQ+ than those not on probation or parole.

  • Men on probation are slightly more likely to be gay or bisexual than men not on probation while men on parole are almost twice as likely to be gay or bisexual than men not on parole.

  • Women on probation are almost three times as likely to be lesbian or bisexual as women not a probation, and women on parole are nearly three times as likely to be lesbian or bisexual as women not on parole

Transgender people

  • 1 in 5 trans people have reported being harassed during encounters with the police; 38% of Black trans people have reported harassment from the police

  • Six percent have reported being physically assaulted by the police and two percent have reported being sexually assaulted by the police

    • The numbers jump for Black trans individuals: 15% report physical abuse and seven percent report sexual assault from police officers

  • Black, multiracial or American Indian trans people are all about two times more likely as white trans people to be harassed by the police; Asian trans individuals are about 1.6 times as likely and Latinx trans individuals are about 1.3 times as likely to be harassed by the police as their white counterparts  

  • According to The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 1 in 6 trans people have been incarcerated and almost half (47%) of Black trans people have been incarcerated.

  • Black trans individuals are nearly four (3.9) times as likely to be incarcerated for life than white trans people; American Indian trans people are two and a half time more likely.

  • Asian trans individuals are incarcerated for life at nearly the same rate as white trans people, Latinx trans individuals are two times more likely, and multiracial trans people are 1.75 times more likely

  • Trans people are subjected to extremely high rates of physical and sexual abuse behind bars and often denied healthcare; most states do not have protection for trans people in the prison system.

  • Harassment and assault are only exacerbated by the fact that most U.S prisons place trans individuals in prisons according to their sex assigned at birth or genital characteristics, not their gender identity.

Read the full report here.

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