A new report by Black and Pink gives us a better picture of the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in prison. Close to 1,200 prisoners were surveyed in 2014.
While some of the recommendations in the report stretch the limits of imagination (such as eliminating the criminal justice system entirely), the experiences reported by LGBTQ prisoners are disturbing and demand attention.
One of the most striking pieces of information is just how young many of these individuals were when they were first incarcerated. Approximately 2/3 or respondents were arrested before their eighteenth birthday.
When you look more closely at the factors that may have contributed to their imprisonment, you’ll discover the challenges many LGBT Youth in America face.
Unsafe Schools: Less than a third of respondents completed high school outside of prison.
Homelessness: Close to 20% of respondents reported being homeless prior to arrest, while only 52% reported stable housing.
Unemployment and Criminalized Economies: Over a third of respondents reported being unemployed prior to their incarceration, nearly 7 times the 2014 national unemployment rate in 2014. Many reported engaging in sex work or selling drugs for their survival.
Given the very real challenges young people faced (again, the majority of whom were teenagers at their first arrest) the fact that they ended up in the criminal justice system is not surprising. Deeply troubling, of course, but not surprising.
Once incarcerated LGBTQ Prisoners face many injustices which are documented in this report. Of course, young or old, all LGBTQ prisoners facing these injustices deserve our attention, our support, and our advocacy. Please read the entire report and consider what you can do to make a difference.