This post is part of CALCASA’s semi-regular #TBT (Throwback Thursday) series highlighting available resources and information you may have missed relevant to intervention and advocacy.

Cover - Coming Out of Concrete Closets

Image Credit: Black & Pink

In October 2015, Black & Pink, a prison abolition group comprised of LGBTQ prisoners and allies, released their report, Coming Out of Concrete Closets: A Report on Black & Pink’s National LGBTQ Prisoner Survey. This report details the findings of a year-long project to document the experiences of LGBTQ people in prisons. Black & Pink created a survey based on feedback submitted by the readership of their monthly newspaper, as well as input from other LGBTQ prisoner justice groups. Black & Pink distributed the 133-question survey to almost 7,000 incarcerated people in 2014, and received over 1,200 hand-written responses detailing the realities that LGBTQ inmates face.
The report covers a range of topics, including respondents’ experiences with sentencing and incarceration, discrimination and violence from both prisoners and staff, health care challenges, maintaining relationships with loved ones, and much more. Survey findings are broken down by race, gender identity, and sexual orientation where appropriate, and are interspersed with images of artwork created by LGBTQ prisoners. Unsurprisingly, LGBTQ inmates disclosed being at high risk for sexual violence – respondents were 6 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general prison population. Even though most sexual assaults were perpetrated by other inmates, an overwhelming majority of respondents said that prison staff enabled the assaults by deliberately placing respondents in harm’s way.
Respondents also reported extremely high rates of solitary confinement: “85% of respondents have been in solitary confinement at some point during their sentence; approximately half have spent 2 or more years there. Altogether, respondents have spent a total of 5,110 years in solitary confinement.” Prisoners were routinely placed in solitary confinement against their will as a protective measure against sexual assault and other violence, despite Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Standard § 115.43 specifically stating the practice should only be used as a last resort in these cases.
Black & Pink’s groundbreaking report gives advocates a clearer picture of the lives of LGBTQ inmates, and is a must-read for those working with incarcerated survivors. Download the full report, and let us know what you think in the comments!

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