Objectives: To report characteristics of sexual minority US inmates.
Methods: We drew our data from the National Inmate Survey, 2011-2012, a probability sample of inmates in US prisons and jails. We determined weighted proportions and odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals to estimate differences between sexual minority and heterosexual inmates.
Results: Sexual minorities (those who self-identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual or report a same-sex sexual experience before arrival at the facility) were disproportionately incarcerated: 9.3% of men in prison, 6.2% of men in jail, 42.1% of women in prison, and 35.7% of women in jail were sexual minorities. The incarceration rate of self-identified lesbian, gay, or bisexual persons was 1882 per 100 000, more than 3 times that of the US adult population. Compared with straight inmates, sexual minorities were more likely to have been sexually victimized as children, to have been sexually victimized while incarcerated, to have experienced solitary confinement and other sanctions, and to report current psychological distress.
Conclusions: There is disproportionate incarceration, mistreatment, harsh punishment, and sexual victimization of sexual minority inmates, which calls for special public policy and health interventions.