A study at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) finds lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth are significantly more likely than heterosexual youth to face incarceration. They are also more likely to spend a longer time in jail.
The report, conducted at UCLA’s Williams Institute and published in January, finds LGBT youth are incarcerated at a rate three times their heterosexual peers. Over nine percent of incarcerated men and over 40 percent of incarcerated women in the United States identify as LGBT. (It should be noted not all LGBT men identify in surveys as male, and vice versa.)
LGBT youth in custody are also more likely to experience sexual violence than heterosexual youth. Young LGBT men are almost 11 times more likely than young heterosexual men to be victims of sexual abuse while in custody.
Dr. Ilan H. Meyer, the leading author on the study, attributes these numbers to a culture of ‘mass incarceration’ and ‘bias’ among police officials.
“We need to understand more about the pathways that lead to greater incarceration of LGB people and whether biases ingrained in the criminal justice system lead to sexual minorities being treated differently than heterosexuals,” Meyer says.
The report draws information from the National Inmate Survey, 2011-2012 and and is the first of its kind to study incarcerated LGBT men and women separately. The results should be scrutinized, however, since LGBT identifiers are self-reported by nature.
For instance, of approximately 164,500 LGBT men in jails and prisons, 94,900 of them identify as “gay” or “bisexual,” but 69,600 of them are men who have sex with other men but do not identify as “gay” or “bisexual.” Of approximately 73,500 LGBT women in jails and prisons, 56,400 of them identify as “lesbian” or “bisexual,” but 17,000 of them are women who have sex with other women but do not identify as “gay” or “bisexual.” That more women are likely to identify in a survey as LGBT calls into question the author’s claim that LGBT women are being discriminated over LGBT men in the criminal justice system.