LGBTQ Prisoners Are Going Through Literal Hell
“While it seems the world is obsessed with Orange is the New Black, I’m living it,” said Ashley Diamond, a trans woman kept in a Georgia men’s prison facility. In one of the videos she took secretly documenting her life in prison, Diamond stated, “I’m an American citizen. I’m a Christian, and I’m transgender.” Diamond is just one of the almost 1,200 LGBTQ people surveyed in Black & Pink’s study of the lives of incarcerated queer people, Coming Out of Concrete Closets. Black & Pink, an organization looking to abolish the prison industrial complex, shows what a traumatic place prison can be for trans and queer lives.
The survey shows that almost one fifth of participants were homeless or transient prior to their incarceration. One third of participants reported being unemployed, and 39% admitted to participating in sex trade in order to survive. Almost two thirds of respondents reported their first arrest occurring under the age of 18, with queer people of color more likely to be arrested and have multiple arrests than white people.
Some of the most horrifying numbers come after incarceration. 100% of respondents reported being frequently strip searched, with answers ranging from “1 to 50, 250, 500, ‘millions,’ ‘every day in 12 years,’ and ‘too many to count.’ One respondent wrote, “who the heck keeps track of all that?”
Participants were also 6 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the rest of the prison population. Diamond reports being the victims of 7 different assaults in her video. She has also reported the rampant lack of healthcare (such as hormones and mental health maintenance) she received during her time in prison. 81% of other participants reported having to pay fees for medical attention, which prevent 43% of them from access to it. Meanwhile, 68% of LGBTQ prisoners were diagnosed with a mental illness that 48% of respondents did not receive therapy for.
Ashley Diamond – a face to all these statistics – was released this summer and has been advocating for LGBTQ prisoners rights since, alongside Black & Pink. The prison complex was pretty fucked up from the jump, but the genuine trauma and horrors that so many of these prisoners face, and are targeted for, is absolutely appalling. If nothing else, Black & Pink’s work serves to show that change needs to be enacted.