A report by a prisoners rights group, billed as the largest study of America's LGBTQIA prison population to date, uncovers some startling statistics and shows LGBT inmates face particularly harsh conditions behind bars.
Prison abolitionist group Black and Pink surveyed 1,118 inmates, 950 of whom identified as LGBT and two-spirit, and found that inmates who identified as such were four times more likely to be sexually assaulted in prison than other inmates.
"I've been sexually assaulted about 5 times in 25 years. It's to the point now that I just go on and sell my body for these gang members because the prison staff won’t put me in safekeeping around other homosexuals," wrote one of 130 inmates who shared detailed stories with the activist group. Another inmate who shared his story said he tried to report his rape and was told by a commanding officer that "faggots can't get raped."
According to the survey, at least 81 percent of respondents reported having to pay a fee to see a doctor and almost half found these fees to be a barrier to seeking medical care. Additionally, 70 percent reported having sex in in prison, though condoms are most often not available, and seven percent of respondents reported being HIV-positive.
The survey found 85 percent of respondents had spent time in solitary confinement, noting that most were placed there for their own safety, and not for an infraction, although some requested isolation due to increased risk of violence. "People did not want to live with someone who has HIV, so I was put in solitary confinement because of this," wrote one respondent.
"I was placed in solitary after being raped... only released after it drove me to a suicide attempt," wrote another. Half of those surveyed have spent more than two years in isolation, and the report found transgender and two-spirit prisoners, along with cisgender gay men, were most likely to be put in solitary confinement involuntarily.
Along with dismal data, the report asked prisoners for suggestions regarding what could be done to help. "The most important way to empower prisoners is by giving them a voice, a 'soap box' to communicate from," wrote one inmate.
"Tell people the real truth: prisons don't deter crime, programs and mentoring do," wrote another.
Read the full report here.