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), and the criminal justice system continues to target queer, trans and gender non-conforming people. We also know that LGBTQ+ people are often subject to increased isolation, harassment and violence when in prison.
The Bent Bars Project aims to work in solidarity with prisoners by organising pen-pal matches, sharing resources, providing mutual support and drawing public attention to the struggles of LGBTQ+ people behind bars.
The Bent Bars Project is organised by a small collective who meet weekly on a volunteer basis to keep the project running.
WHAT WE DO
- We directly link LGBTQ people across prison walls by matching LGBTQ people inside prison with LGBTQ people outside prison as pen-pals.
- We produce a newsletter written for and by LGBTQ prisoners.
- We host events for pen pals on the outside.
- We visit prisons in the UK to tell people about the project.
- We collect, produce and distribute resources for LGBTQ prisoners.
- To develop stronger connections and build solidarity among LGBTQ people across prison walls.
- To reduce the isolation and increase empowerment of LGBTQ people inside and outside prison.
- To generate awareness about issues faced by LGBTQ prisoners.
- To facilitate LGBTQ prisoners voices being heard.
- To provide a supportive space for people to discuss issues around imprisonment.
- To challenge the values and assumptions that allow the current prison system to be maintained.
- The project is motivated by a politics of solidarity, exchange and mutual support not charity or help.
- The project is informed by prisoner experience, involvement and perspectives.
- We make decisions collectively and work to prevent hierarchies.
- We support all LGBTQ+ prisoners regardless of charge or conviction.
- We believe that prisons are not effective in holding people to account for their actions, healing harms or preventing violence. We believe that there are better strategies for addressing social problems.
- We recognise that many LGBTQ people end up in the prison system as a result of interlinked patterns of discrimination, particularly racism, poverty and ableism.
- We aim to organise in ways that challenge these broader systems of inequality and social exclusion.