“‘I Was Scared to Sleep’: LGBT Youth Face Violence Behind Bars”
That’s the headline of this Nation article by Daniel Redman of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The article makes the important point that for many incarcerated LGBT youth, their problems began long before they arrived in jail:
LGBT kids are often targeted for sexual assault. A 2009 Department of Justice report shows that across the country, LGBT youth are twelve times more likely than straight youth to report being sexually assaulted by a fellow inmate. In Louisiana alone, 10 percent of all youth–gay and straight–reported abuse by a staff member. Krystal reports that she was propositioned twice by guards when she was 14. When she refused, she was verbally abused and called a “bitch.”
An LGBT youth’s problems with the law frequently begin at home. “LGBT youth are more likely to be arrested than straight youth because they’re more likely to be pushed out of their homes,” says Dr. [Marty] Beyer. And “family rejection is a direct pipeline to the juvenile justice system,” says San Francisco State University researcher Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project. While only 3-10 percent of Americans are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, LGBT youth make up 15 percent of the prison population. Indeed, one-quarter of all LGBT youth are kicked out of their homes or run away. Compared to their heterosexual peers, incarcerated LGBT youth are twice as likely to report abuse at the hands of family members, homelessness or state-ordered foster placement. A shocking estimated 20-40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT.
As always, to learn more about sexual violence in America’s prisons, visit the website of Just Detention International, which is packed with information, news updates, and suggestions for how you can take action.