Prisons: Overview

LGBT people housed in prisons and jails face serious problems related to their sexuality and gender identity. LGBT prisoners are often placed in segregated housing “for their own protection,” depriving them of jobs, education, and other privileges that could shorten their sentences or better prepare them for release. When prisoners are placed in solitary confinement, they typically spend 23 hours a day alone in their cells with only an hour to exercise or bathe. Those practices are extremely dangerous to prisoners’ mental health. Transgender prisoners also encounter serious problems obtaining hormones or other medical care, and LGBT prisoners in general are much more likely than other prisoners to be harassed and sexually assaulted. NCLR is committed to serving LGBT prisoners through advocacy and litigation.

Between 2009 and 2011, NCLR was part of a team of lawyers that successfully represented Vanessa Adams, a transgender woman housed in the federal prison system. Although prison medical staff diagnosed Ms. Adams with Gender Identity Disorder (GID), they refused to provide hormones or other treatment. As a result of a settlement, Ms. Adams received hormones and other care and the prison system implemented a policy requiring individualized assessments of all transgender prisoners for necessary care. NCLR also works to ensure that prisons and jails comply with all of the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).