It is common knowledge that America incarcerates more of its population than any other nation globally, and the prison industrial complex intersects with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population in very specific ways.
However, in one U.S. jail LGBT prisoners are afforded unique opportunities not typically available anywhere else nation-wide. The gay section of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Men’s Central Jail, commonly referred to as "K6G," is an anomaly in the American incarceration system. L.A. Weekly recently launched an in-depth investigation into this subculture. As the article notes:
The gay wing at Men’s Central Jail is an exceptionally rare, if not unique, subculture, the only environment of its kind in a major U.S. city. Nothing like it exists in America’s 21 largest urban jails, all contacted by the Weekly, where officials described in far more modest terms their own steps to deal with and house gay inmates. San Francisco has a transgender holding tank, but gay inmates live among the general population. In New York’s Rikers Island, whose similar gay wing was shuttered in 2005, a jail spokesman laughed out loud, saying that whoever decides which men get placed in L.A. County’s gay jail wing 'must have really good gay-dar.'
The article goes on to describe how "K6G" emerged as the result of a 1985 ACLU lawsuit that brought to light the disproportionate levels of violence faced by LGBT prisoners.
The most compelling parts of the piece? The prevailing sense of community and chosen family that persists in a space occupied by queer people. “For some people, this is their home because a lot of their families have disowned them and shunned them, so we’re their family,” a prisoner named Yah Yah explained. “A lot of people’s walks in here have been hard walks.”
Despite the unique opportunity provided for gay prisoners within the L.A. County Sheriff’s Men’s Central Jail, it's important to remember that prisons are in no way safe spaces for queer people. According to The National Center For Transgender Equality, LGBT individuals have disproportionate encounters with the justice system. In fact, "16% of transgender adults have been in a prison or jail for any reason. This compares with 2.7% of all adults who have ever been in prison."
In addition, as recently highlighted by Fusion, transgender prisoners are oftentimes locked up with members of the sex they were assigned at birth rather than the sex they identify with -- opening up these individuals for extreme persecution and violence at the hands of their fellow inmates.
Head here to read the full piece on L.A. Weekly.