Have you ever given any thought about what happens to prisoners when they are behind bars? There are dozens of crime shows that are aired every single day on TV. In these shows, the producers give us outsiders a look into what the everyday life is like for the typical inmate. Did you know that if you are a member of the LGBT community, you are more likely to be sexually assaulted while behind bars? This is not just a one-time occurrence. Assault amongst the members in this community are facing abuse every single day, and it is time for society to stop sweeping these issues under the rug and this must stop for once and for all.
We live in a world where we are taught to treat others the way we want to be treated – Yes, this includes those who make the decision to break the law as well. Just because they make a poor decision, does not mean that it is OK for them to experience traumatic events on top of their pre-existing sentences. To start off, LGBT incarceration is at a staggering rate. People who identify as members of this community “are 3x more likely to be incarcerated than the general U. S. population”. Because of how serious the rate of assault and abuse is, “the DOJ promulgated a set of regulations implementing PREA”. Enacted in 2003, the “Prison Rape Elimination Act” was put into place to help prevent sexual assaults amongst prisoners.
Since it was first enacted, the data collected by the PREA has provided so much information that has helped “contribute to significant policy changes that address LGBT sexual victimization behind bars, illustrating the key point that paying greater attention to LGBT identity in crime data can inform changes in how criminal justice institutions respond to and treat LGBT populations. In their findings, it showed that those who identify as a member of the LGBT community, they are exposed to a higher risk of assault. This magnitude of this issue is overwhelming.
Why is this such a problem? This is a problem because out of the “nearly 7 million adults who are under correctional supervision in the US today. . . more than 200,000 of them are sexually abused”. From those numbers, people who identified as homosexual “were 13 times as likely to be sexually abused as other prisoners”. Men and women who choose to be their true selves, people who are not afraid of saying, “I love men…” or, “I love women”, are being raped, abused, and sometimes even killed, just for being themselves. Abuse and rape are not the only hardships that members of the LGBT community who are behind bars are facing. Former inmates have informed the media of facing recurring humiliation from prison staff members for “flaunting themselves”. As a hope for this to end, these inmates often “request protective custody”, but those requests are ignored.
How does it affect them? In some cases, it is better for LGBT victims to remain quiet than report the assault. Advocate. com found that “sexual minority inmates are more likely to experience solitary confinement”. Although this is done to help make sure the victim is safe, solitary confinement is meant to be used as a form of punishment. Victims are placed on a “23-hour lockdown, are given a lack of family visits” , and contact with other inmates outside of the confinement area is strictly limited–as a form of punishment that is meant to be given to those who frequently get into trouble in prison, these victims of abuse are being treated as if they are the ones in the wrong, by being sent to solitary confinement. The research that I discovered throughout this assignment just goes to show how urgent this matter is. People are often told that once you become a prisoner and are behind bars, all of your rights are stripped away.
Does this mean that abuse is fine to happen behind bars, and victims do not have the right to say no? False. Since the severity of this issue is often overlooked, it may take years before anything permanent is even considered to be put into place. As a member of the LGBT community, I am determined to help make an impact on this unaddressed issue. There are people dying in prisons due to rape and assault, and it is never too early to begin trying to find a solution for this awful matter. The victim is never the one at fault in cases of assault or abuse.