The Bent Bars Project is a letter-writing project for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, gender-variant, intersex, and queer prisoners in Britain. The project was founded in 2009, responding to a clear need to develop stronger connections and build solidarity between LGBTQ communities inside and outside prison walls.
LGBTQ people have a long history of being policed and criminalised (and of resisting that criminalistion) yet there are relatively few community resources to support LGBTQ prisoners. Although there are many LGBTQ community groups in Britain, most do not specifically address the issues of LGBTQ prisoners. Likewise, many prisoner support groups do not address the specific issues faced by LGBTQ people behind bars.
Although most overtly homophobic and transphobic laws have been overturned in Britain, the criminal justice system continues to target and criminalize queer, trans and gender non-conforming people. We don’t know exactly how many LGBTQ people are currently behind bars, but we do know queer, trans and gender non-conforming people, particularly those from poor backgrounds and communities of colour, are disproportionately funneled into the prison system as a result of systemic discrimination, inequality and social exclusion. We also know that queer, trans and gender non-conforming people are often subject to increased isolation, harassment, violence and assault when in prison.
Bent Bars aims to work in solidarity with prisoners by sharing resources, providing mutual support and drawing public attention to the struggles of queer and trans people behind bars.
The project also collects and distributes information for LGBTQ prisoners on a range of issues, including harm reduction practices (safer sex, safer drug-use), HIV and HepC prevention, homophobia, transphobia, coming out in prison, etc.