As advocates, communities, and organizations continue to champion the rights of LGBTQ+ populations nationwide, incarcerated LGBTQ+ remain among the most vulnerable populations in the carceral system. A history of systemic discrimination, harmful policing policies, and discriminatory implementation of legislation that target queer and trans people—especially those who are poor and of color—suggests an explanation for how LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately more likely to engage with the criminal legal system. Once in prison, LGBTQ+ prisoners face astoundingly high rates of sexual abuse by prison staff and other prisoners. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, transgender individuals are ten times more likely to be sexually assaulted by their fellow inmates and five times more likely to be sexually assaulted by prison staff than the general prison population. Prisoners who have survived assault in prison also risk retaliation from facility staff and other prisoners if they disclose their attack.
Incarcerated TGNC individuals also face other vulnerabilities related to their health and medical care. For transgender offenders who were undergoing hormonal therapy or gender affirming surgery at the time of arrest, access to needed medications and procedures can be temporarily suspended. Additionally, facilities may deny them access to gender-appropriate clothing or other medical necessities. TGNC prisoners seeking to file a grievance with their facility are often met with a lack of oversight and motivation on the part of administrators to adequately respond to their issues. If a facility fails to respond to a particular grievance issue, justice for the prisoner is stalled as the prisoner must first exhaust all administrative remedies with the facility before filing a claim in court. Exhausting these remedies proves difficult due to the esoteric and unsystematic way in which these procedures are laid out. The burden is on the prisoner to successfully maneuver an often adversarial grievance process, and then successfully maneuver an often inaccessible legal process on their own to access their basic human rights.