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Report: LGBTQ People Face Harsh Treatment Behind Bars

Transgender women face additional trauma in prison as they are often housed with men, or put into isolation for their own safety. (Pixabay)
Transgender women face additional trauma in prison as they are often housed with men, or put into isolation for their own safety. (Pixabay)
January 18, 2017

LANSING, Mich. – Serving time behind bars is traumatic for any person, but can be especially dehumanizing for those who identify as LBGTQ. A recent report published in the American Journal of Public Health found that sexual minorities are disproportionately incarcerated in the United States, and also much more likely to be mistreated and sexually assaulted.

In Flint, the MADE Institute advocates for the rights of people in prison. Executive Director Leon EL-Alamin, says the discrimination, harassment and bullying faced by LBGTQ individuals doesn't end when they are locked up. And he believes women face harsher treatment.

"Just like in the men's prison, it's the same for the women, if not worse," he said. "A lot of things go on, from rape, some have been impregnated by COs; there have been lawsuits, to other psychological and physical abuse."

According to the ACLU, in the past three decades, the national female prison population has risen at nearly twice the rate of men. EL-Alamin says this increase, combined with research on the treatment of LBGTQ prisoners, make it imperative for policymakers to investigate additional protections for women who are sexual minorities.

Transgender women face additional trauma in prison as they are often housed with men, or put in isolation for their own safety.

John Trimble, deputy director of the Trans Sistas of Color Project in Detroit, explains their gender identity is essentially taken away, which can leave them ostracized and vulnerable to assault.

"There's no precedent for how a trans person is treated when they go into the criminal justice system," Trimble said. "There is no human rights piece, there is no social justice piece. There is no campaign that really speaks to how our trans folks are treated."

Trimble says correctional facilities need better gender and sexuality training for staff, as well as programs and safe spaces for LBGTQ people serving sentences, so they can rehabilitate and live productive lives after their release.

"We still are someone's child, we're still someone's grandchild, we're still someone's aunt and uncle," Trimble added. "We still have lives and dreams and hopes, and things that we want to accomplish. But because of the way people look at gender, sex and sexuality, we are sometimes made to be 'on the margins of the margin.'"

The incarceration rate for sexual minorities is more than three times the overall rate, and 40 percent of women in prison identify as LBGTQ.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI