Raising Awareness for LGBTQ Youth in the Juvenile Justice System
Resources and legislation that help and protect LGBTQ youth, a marginalized and vulnerable group within the juvenile justice system, are lacking. June is dedicated to raising awareness of the unique challenges that LGBTQ youth face in the system and the path forward to creating reform.
Research conducted by The Equity Project has shown that LGBTQ youths are more likely to confront certain barriers and environmental risk factors connected to their sexual orientations and gender identities. For example, compared with their heterosexual classmates and peers, LGBTQ youths are more likely to experience bullying at school more likely to experience rejection or victimization perpetrated by their parents/caregivers (often resulting in youths’ running away from home) more likely to face homelessness twice as likely to be arrested and detained for status offenses and other nonviolent offenses, and at higher risk for illicit drug use. Available research has estimated that LGBT youths represent 5 percent to 7 percent of the nation’s overall youth population, but they compose 13 percent to 15 percent of those currently in the juvenile justice system. Schools, law enforcement officers, district attorneys, judges, and juvenile defenders are ill equipped to deal with the challenges that these young people face. As a result, the system often exacerbates previous damage by unfairly criminalizing LGBTQ youth—imposing harsh school sanctions, labeling them as sex offenders, or detaining them for minor offenses, in addition to subjecting them to discriminatory and harmful treatment that deprives them of their basic civil rights.
The Equity Project, guided by experts on juvenile court processing and LGBTQ youth in the justice system, released Hidden Injustice; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in Juvenile Courts (Fall 2009) to help inform justice professionals about the experiences of LGBT youth in the juvenile justice system. Many of the issues that affect all youth in the justice system — incarceration for misdemeanors, increased time in detention, and disparate impact on minority youth just to name a few—are augmented for LGBTQ youth. The report also identifies key issues specific to LGBTQ youth and makes recommendations for juvenile justice professionals to implement moving forward.
Please join CFYJ this June in learning more about this issue and raising awareness for reform. Follow the Equity Project on Twitter and Facebook.