Saturday, March 18, 2017

LGBT People Are More Likely To Be Incarcerated

Written by Carolyn Crist

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals are disproportionately incarcerated, mistreated and sexually victimized in U.S. jails and prisons, researchers say. Lead study author Ilan Meyer, the Williams Distinguished Senior Scholar for Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law and his colleagues drew data from the 2011-2012 National Inmate Survey, which interviewed a representative sample of people in U.S. prisons and jails. Their analysis found that rates of incarceration for lesbian, gay and bisexual people were 1,882 per 100,000. That is more than three times the “already high” incarceration rate of 612 per 100,000 U.S. population, the authors write in the American Journal of Public Health. “Importantly, the data distinguishes between sexual orientation, sexual identity and sexual behavior,” Meyer said. “Not everyone who has had a same-sex experience identifies as gay, and we were able to look at several measures.” 

In total, sexual minorities - LGBT individuals or those who reported a same-sex sexual experience before arrival at the facility - represented 9.3 percent of all men in prison, 6.2 percent of men in jail, 42.1 percent of women in prison and 35.7 percent of women in jail. Sexual minorities were also more likely to experience solitary confinement and to report psychological distress. 

The data showed as well that sexual minorities were more likely than heterosexual prisoners to report sexual victimization as a child and to be incarcerated for violent sexual and nonsexual crimes rather than crimes related to property, drugs or parole violations. “This raises a lot of questions and a call-to-action for policy changes in both jails and prisons,” Meyer said. “In a similar way we’re discussing race and incarceration, the experience seems to be different across the whole criminal justice process for minorities.” In both prisons and jails, gay or bisexual men were also more likely than straight men to have sentences longer than 10 years in prison. “The burning question is: How did such a high proportion of LGB men and women end up incarcerated?” Meyer said. “Where is the root of this?” 

The study authors speculate that prejudice toward sexual minorities may lead to discriminatory treatment, from initial contact with law enforcement, such as overpolicing of sexual offenses. Also, family rejection, illegal drug use and community-level marginalization may increase the risk of incarceration. “We need to understand whether there are biases ingrained in our court system that lead to sexual minorities being handled in a different way,” Meyer said. “With race, this is nothing new, and now we’re seeing it’s also true for the sexual minority population.” READ MORE

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