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Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered People in Prison For anyone that has a same sex partner, family member, friend or Pen Pal in prison that is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgendered.

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Old 04-01-2006, 11:03 AM
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Default Arrested Justice: When GLBT People land in Jail

Arrested justice: When LGBT people land in jail
Part one: A frightening odyssey

When Steve Slater was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in West Hollywood in 2004, he began what was to become the most frightening odyssey of his life -- spending six days in the notorious Los Angeles County Jail.

"It was so horrible, so terrible, I try to forget it ever happened," Slater (a pseudonym) says.
But forgetting does not come easy. Two years after his release, Slater, a 37-year-old gay marketing executive, is still bitterly angry and, at times, deeply ashamed of the abuse he says he endured at the hands of sadistic guards and cruel and uncaring inmates. He recounts the details he'd rather not remember with startling clarity and little emotion.
Marked as gay by jail officials, who require gay and transgender inmates to wear different-color clothing from nongays, Slater was screamed at by guards and inmates alike for being a "cocksucker," a "pussy" and a "faggot." Within days, he was sexually assaulted by an HIV-positive inmate. He spent two days locked in a psych ward, naked, where the walls were smeared with feces and where other inmates -- blurry figures Slater could hardly see because guards had taken away his glasses -- wailed day and night.
"Those guards took something from me, an appreciation of who I am, and made me feel lower than I ever thought I could feel," he says. "I was happier not knowing a place like that existed."
But places like that -- jails and prisons rife with sexual abuse, violence, disease, and the explicit targeting of gay and transgender inmates -- exist in countless cities in every state. Shocking as it may be, Slater's experience is, in fact, the rule rather than the exception for LGBT inmates in America's prisons.
Gay men and transgender women, in particular, are frequent targets of sexual abuse; many are raped within days or even hours of their incarceration. Gang rapes are not uncommon, and gay and transgender inmates may find themselves "owned" by a gang and forced to endure repeated sexual violence from gang members in exchange for protection from other prisoners.
One former inmate, Roderick Johnson, sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in 2005 for failing to protect him from harrowing sexual abuse. Johnson testified that during his 18-month sentence he was raped up to 100 times and sold as a sex slave by prison gangs for $3-$7 per act.
Rape in prison can also mean exposure to HIV and other STDs, since condoms are rare and rates of HIV/AIDS are four to five times higher behind bars than in the general population, according to research by the U.S. Department of Justice.
"HIV infection should never be part of anyone's prison sentence," says Andrea Cavanaugh Kern, a spokeswoman for Stop Prisoner Rape, an organization working to end sexual assault in jail. "There's a perception by prison officials that gay men like to be raped, and it gets treated like a joke," she says. "But this is a life-or-death issue for the LGBT community." Transgender prisoners are especially vulnerable to attack because, regardless of their appearance or gender identity, they are almost always housed according to their birth gender. A transgender woman with breast implants who may have been on hormones for years will be locked up with men in an environment ruled by hypermasculinity and violence. Transgender men housed in women's prisons also face abuse, though more from guards than other inmates.

Two transgender prisoners filed suit in January challenging a Wisconsin law that bars inmates from receiving hormones or sex reassignment surgery, a case that highlights the rampant discrimination transgender inmates face, activists say.
"What happens in prisons is a magnification of the discrimination and homophobia people face on the outside," says Kern. "It's important for all of us to fight it."
Yet the mainstream LGBT community has virtually ignored issues of police brutality and the plight of prisoners, focusing its political muscle instead on marriage, the military and hate-crime laws.
"Society as a whole really ignores prison issues," says Sean Cahill, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, "and our community is not so different."
All that, however, may be changing.
The Policy Institute is now conducting three LGBT prisoner-rights research projects, and this year Lambda Legal took on its first transgender prisoner-rights case.
"There's a lot of concern about this issue bubbling up right now," says Dean Spade, an attorney with New York's Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which advocates for LGBT prisoner rights. The recent closure of the gay and transgender facility at New York's Rikers Island has galvanized activists as well, Spade says. "This is a human rights issue, and it can be overwhelming for people to think about," Spade says. "But I'm pathologically optimistic. I have great faith in the power of people to make change."
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Old 04-01-2006, 11:05 AM
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Arrested justice: When LGBT people land in jail
Part two: Rape and HIV are all too common
Roderick Johnson's shocking experience behind bars lasted 18 months. From September 2000 to July 2001, while serving time in a Texas prison, Johnson, 33, was beaten, abused, forced to wear women's clothing and "rented" to other prisoners as a sex slave almost every day. He was raped more than 100 times.

When Johnson reported the abuse, pleading for his safety, a prison official told him, "That's what you get for being gay."
For TJ Parsell, the violence started on his first day in prison. Three older inmates gave the 17-year-old Parsell a drink spiked with a powerful sedative, then gang-raped him.
"My screams didn't matter to them," said Parsell, who vomited during the attack. "They bragged about it later." Afterward, the men flipped a coin to see who would "own" him. Despite suffering a bleeding rectum, Parsell never reported the assault.
"What I went through was horrible," he said, "but if I snitched, they'd kill me. And I wanted to get out of there alive."
Johnson and Parsell are but two of the estimated 120,000 men raped every year in U.S. jails and prisons, according to human rights activists. Indeed, prison rape is so common it has become an intrinsic part of how we conceptualize the prison experience: It is almost expected that men serving time behind bars will at some point be sexually preyed upon.
A far experience from late-night TV jokes about dropping soap in the shower or the glossy, fetishized prison scenes that saturate gay male pornography, rape in prison is often terrifying and brutal. Victims are physically injured, traumatized and, not infrequently, exposed to HIV. Among the inmates most targeted for rape -- first offenders, the young, the physically small or effeminate -- gay men and transgender women are often immediately singled out for attack.
"Gay prisoners are four times more likely to be raped in prison" than nongay prisoners, says Andrea Cavanaugh Kern of Stop Prisoner Rape, an organization dedicated to eradicating sexual violence behind bars.
Such widespread abuse is often overlooked or encouraged by corrections officials who may believe that gay men like to be raped, Kern says. "Prisoners are made fun of and told that because they're gay, they must have enjoyed it."
But enjoyment is not what inmates report. Researchers at Human Rights Watch have documented serious injuries among men raped in U.S. prisons, including broken bones, lost teeth and lacerations requiring scores of stitches. Psychological trauma is common, ranging from shame and depression to violence and higher suicide rates.
"Gay men in prison are viewed as lacking in fundamental manhood and as open game," says Parsell, now 47 and a board member of Stop Prisoner Rape. "Sexual exploitation is seen by other prisoners as the ultimate way to conquer" gays and other vulnerable inmates, he says. Prison rape is also a brutally efficient means of transmitting HIV, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases, experts say. Rates of AIDS are nearly five times higher among incarcerated men than in the general population, according to a 2002 study by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. Though AIDS is now the No. 2 cause of death in prison, only two states, Mississippi and Vermont, allow inmates in state prisons access to condoms.


Elsewhere, inmates resort to using plastic garbage bags, sandwich bags and latex gloves as makeshift condoms, says Judy Greenspan, former AIDS information coordinator of the ACLU National Prison Project.
Despite advances in HIV prevention and care outside prison, Greenspan believes the problem behind bars is getting worse.
"Drug laws are filling the prisons with drug addicts," many of whom are HIV-positive, Greenspan says. But because prisons often lack adequate health care and drug recovery programs, inmates remain ill and addicted, she says.
Rape, of course, only contributes to the crisis.
With the release each year of hundreds of thousands of inmates, prison rape becomes not just a corrections issue, experts say, but a public health crisis. As a response to this crisis, and after significant pressure from both right- and left-leaning political groups, President Bush in 2003 signed the Prison Rape Reduction Act, a sweeping law mandating the collection of data on prison rape and the development of guidelines on how to prevent it. Last July, Parsell traveled to San Francisco to testify at a hearing about being raped in prison. That same weekend, he said, he encountered a flier for a "Bears Behind Bars" theme party, including faux strip searches that eroticized prison rape.

"One is a fantasy. Then there's the brutal reality," Parsell says. "If our gay brethren out here really knew what went on in prison, they would be outraged."
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Old 04-01-2006, 11:06 AM
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