Members of the LGBT community in the U.S. are two times more likely than the rest of the population to be incarcerated and are disproportionately targeted during each stage of the criminal legal system, according to LGBT Books to Prisoners.
Badger Volunteers hosted LGBT Books to Prisoners for their first educational session of the semester Thursday night.
Event organizers gave an overview of the current U.S. prison system, and then showed videos highlighting the biased handling of LGBT people and people of color in the criminal legal system.
LGBT Books to Prisoners is a non-profit organization that sends educational books to LGBT people in federal and state prisons around the country.
UW-Madison senior Kayla Naus, an organizer for the non-profit group, said the event is important because mass incarceration is a huge problem in the U.S., especially for the LGBT community, which currently makes up 3.8 percent of the U.S. population.
“Looking at the criminal legal system from different point of view isn’t really talked about especially with politics today,” Naus said. “Having a space for people to learn about different aspects of it and how it targets different groups of people disproportionately is super important.”
UW-Madison graduate student Melissa Charenko said meeting the individual needs of people in prison has been a key mission of the organization for the last 10 years.
“It’s not just about education but acknowledging that people have different wants and desires and giving powers back to them,” Charenko said.
Students involved with Badger Volunteers are required to attend one educational session per semester at their choosing. UW-Madison sophomore Casey Reynders said she is an ally for the LGBT community, which contributed to her choice to attend the volunteer event.
“I wanted to know more about how the LGBT community is affected in the sense of incarceration,” Reynders said.
Naus said they expected most students attending the session to have little or no prior knowledge on LGBT involvement in prison systems.
“What I want to show students tonight is how hard intersectional identity can be and why it’s important to bring light to LGBT issues today.” Naus said.