ACLU releases toolkit for protecting LGBT prisoners
By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
The American Civil Liberties Union released an online "toolkit" on Wednesday outlining ways local advocates can improve conditions for LGBT prisoners across the country.
It also provides information on how LGBT prisoners can protect themselves.
In its announcement, the ACLU said lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inmates in the United States face increased levels of sexual harassment, sexual assault and physical isolation.
Transgender people often cannot live in spaces for those of their identified gender, and are forced to strip so guards can check their genitals. LGBT people are often placed in isolation under the guise of their being protected from other inmates, the ACLU said.
"Somewhere along the line, corrections officials determined that isolating [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] prisoners would keep them safer. Here's the truth: people in solitary confinement are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse from prison staff," the ACLU said in its announcement.
"And spending 23 hours a day alone in a cell the size of a parking space does its own considerable damage, whittling away at someone's mental health or making pre-existing conditions even worse," the organization said.
Other studies have found similar problems.
One in May found that non-heterosexual inmates across the country reported a much greater degree of sexual victimization in the last two years than their straight counterparts.
There's also evidence that the Black Guerrilla Family, a powerful gang in Maryland prisons, doesn't much care for the LGBT population.
Much of the harassment experienced by LGBT prisoners is exactly what the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 is meant to prevent, the ACLU said, and advocates of LGBT prisoners should be ready to use the law to combat the abuse.
The organization's new End the Abuse: Protecting LGBTI Prisoners from Abuse toolkit "helps advocates devise a strategy to pressure jails and prisons to meet their obligations" under the law, the ACLU said.
That includes "guidance on how to document violations, how to push for policy and legislative change, and when and how to pursue litigation."
The toolkit also includes a "Know Your Rights Guide" for those currently incarcerated.
To find the toolkit, you can click here.