From policing to sentencing to incarceration, LGBTQ people—especially those who are poor, black, and brown—are systematically targeted and then, once locked up, subjected to “constant violence by both prison staff and other prisoners,” a harrowing new study reveals.
, released Friday by the LGBTQ prison abolition organization Black and Pink, is based on 1,118 prisoners’ hand-written responses to a 133-question survey that was designed with the participation of incarcerated people. Researchers say the findings of the study, the largest-ever survey of this population, indict the U.S. prison system as a whole.
“The prison industrial complex is a tool of racial control to marginalize and contain people of color,” Rev. Jason Lydon, national director of Black and Pink and lead author of the report, told Common Dreams. “It is also a tool of homophobia and transphobia.”
A stunning 85 percent of respondents reported spending time in solitary confinement at some point, with half reporting two or more years there. Black, Latino, mixed-race, and Native American respondents were two times as likely to have been in solitary confinement than white respondents. In many cases, prisons employ euphemisms such as “protective custody” to justify such policies.
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However, the targeting starts long before—in the streets. Nearly a fifth of respondents reported being homeless before being locked up and over a third said they were unemployed. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they were arrested when they were younger than 18 years old, and that ratio jumped to 66 percent among Black and Latino populations.
Once in the court system, LGBTQ people report high levels of inequitable treatment, with over half of transgender women and nonbinary gendered people saying they faced discrimination from their defense attorneys. Half of Native American respondents, and more than 40 percent of Latino and mixed-race respondents, reported race- or ethnicity-based discrimination from their lawyers.
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