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Report Finds Transgender People Behind Bars Often Harassed

A new report says transgender people are targeted and mistreated in the U.S. justice system. (Greg Stotelmyer)
A new report says transgender people are targeted and mistreated in the U.S. justice system. (Greg Stotelmyer)
May 31, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Transgender people end up behind bars at a much higher rate than others, and once there they are subjected to harassment, abuse and violence, according to a study by two advocacy groups, the Movement Advancement Project and the Center for American Progress.

Naomi Goldberg, policy and research director for the Movement Advancement Project, says 21 percent of transgender women have been in jail or prison, as well as 10 percent of transgender men, while only 5 percent of the entire adult population has.

Goldberg says once a transgender person runs afoul of the law, researchers found that person isn’t treated properly.

"Everything from being placed in an inappropriate facility because of their gender identity to lack of access to medical care to high rates of sexual assault by both staff and other incarcerated people," she states.

Goldberg says once a transgender person is released from prison, there's a lack of support to find a job or housing for those who have a criminal record, so many end up back behind bars.

She says transgender people face a lot of discrimination, meaning the cards are stacked against them.

"Very few surveys ask about gender identity or gender expression,” she points out. “In many places across this country, transgender people lack equal protections in housing, in employment accommodations, in employment and in terms of being able to access an accurate gender marker on their birth certificate or drivers license."

The new study comes as Kentucky, at the direction of Gov. Matt Bevin, has joined a lawsuit against the federal government over new guidelines on how schools should accommodate transgender students.

Bevin calls the guidelines "an absurd federal overreach into a local issue."

Goldberg says while the study finds that one in five transgender people has experienced homelessness because of discrimination and family rejection, she believes eventually there will be acceptance.

"The growing understanding of what it means to be transgender and the more visibility that transgender people in our communities have, I think the more comfortable and familiar society will be,” she stresses. “And I mean certainly my hope is transgender people will no longer be targeted and no longer be singled out. "

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY