A new report published in the American Journal of Public Health found that LGBTQ people in our nation disproportionately wind up behind bars more often than their straight counterparts.
According to the study, conducted by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles, members of the LGBTQ community are also more likely to find themselves in solitary confinement, suffer more mistreatment at the hands of prison personnel, and endure sexual assault more frequently than straight prisoners.
PinkNews reported that, “Researchers recorded that the number of people who identified as LGBTQ before being sent to prison or jail (for the purpose of the research, defined as a place for people awaiting trial or serving less than one year) in comparison to the general population was ‘disproportionately high.’”
The findings from “Incarceration Rates and Traits of Sexual Minorities in the United States: National Inmate Survey” revealed that 9.3 percent of men in prison and 6.2 percent of men in jails self identify as LGBTQ. Gay and bisexual men were more likely to be serving sentences of ten years or more.
Meanwhile, the statistics pertaining to women were even more astonishing: 42.1 percent of female inmates in prison and 35.7 percent of women prisoners in jail identified as LGBTQ. Lesbian and bisexual women were also incarcerated for longer stretches of time than straight women.
The study’s lead author, Ilan Meyer, told NextNowNext that the results were so shocking, researchers insisted on checking their data several times to ensure the findings’ veracity.
“We’ve received mixed reactions—some people still don’t believe it,” said Meyer. He says that since the report’s authors indeed reviewed the report three times, “[T]here is no reason to suspect it or think there’s an error.”
LGBT people face incarceration at a rate of 1882 per 100,000—a figure approximately three times higher than rates for the general population, and, essentially, one that points to a mostly veiled epidemic of imprisonment afflicting our community.
How (and if) law enforcement and U.S. judicial and prison systems choose to address these astounding indications of blatant bias toward LGBTQ people remains to be seen, but one thing seems clear: Our community must step up and take measurable action to ensure that our sisters and brothers are never improperly or unfairly jailed—or mistreated merely because of who they love or how they identify.