Denver, CO, August 23, 2016 — A comprehensive new report explores how the U.S. juvenile and criminal justice systems endanger the lives and life chances of young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ). Among the report’s most alarming findings is that the percentage of LGBT youth in juvenile detention is double that of LGBT youth in the general population; 20% of youth in juvenile justice facilities identify as LGBT or gender non-conforming compared to 7-9% of youth in general.
Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBTQ Youth is the product of an unprecedented coalition of organizations working on issues including LGBT equality, homelessness prevention, education, criminal justice reform and more.
“This report confirms once and for all what many of us have known for some time: LGBTQ young people are grossly overrepresented in the juvenile justice system, and it’s no coincidence. We live in a society where discrimination and stigma too often lead to criminalization and mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project (MAP).
The report also explores the widespread causes of the overrepresentation and documents the disparate—and often exceedingly harsh—treatment of LGBT youth by law enforcement, courts and detention facilities. The new report is a companion to a broader report released earlier this year, Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People.
Why Are LGBT Youth Overrepresented in the System?
The Unjust report report highlights several factors in the overrepresentation of LGBT young people in the juvenile justice system. They include:
“Existing policies often provide little promise of equal treatment under law for LGBTQ young people. Our research shows they are more likely to have negative and discriminatory interactions with teachers, foster parents, the child welfare system and even law enforcement officers,” said Laura E. Durso, Senior Director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the of the Center for American Progress (CAP), which coauthored the report. “As a result, LGBT young people are dramatically overrepresented in the criminal justice system. It is long past time we looked at the way the education, child welfare and law enforcement systems interact and continuously fail to provide safety and equality of opportunity these young people.”
LGBT Youth Face Discrimination and Abuse in the System
The report also paints a comprehensive portrait of how LGBT youth are unfairly treated and abused once they enter the juvenile justice system. The following are among the problems it documents:
“LGBTQ young people are facing unacceptable levels of mistreatment, harassment and violence in the juvenile and criminal justice systems,” said Shannon Wilber, Youth Project Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Their experiences in these systems are a huge threat to their lives and life chances, and we are doing far too little to prepare them for a healthy and productive life after release.”
The Unjust report includes numerous stories about people, organizations and juvenile justice institutions that are advancing positive changes to improve conditions and outcomes for LGBT youth. It also includes a series of recommendations for ensuring fairer treatment of LGBT young people in families, schools, communities and throughout the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
ABOUT THE CO-AUTHORS
Movement Advancement Project's (MAP) mission is to provide independent and rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all. MAP works to ensure that all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life. www.lgbtmap.org
Center for American Progress is a think tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action. CAP combines bold policy ideas with a modern communications platform to help shape the national debate. CAP is designed to provide long-term leadership and support to the progressive movement. CAP’s policy experts cover a wide range of issue areas, and often work across disciplines to tackle complex, interrelated issues such as national security, energy, and climate change. www.americanprogress.org
Advancement Project www.advancementproject.org
The Equity Project
Forward Together www.forwardtogether.org
GSA Network www.gsanetwork.org
Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Campaign Foundation www.hrc.org
The National LGBTQ Task Force www.thetaskforce.org
True Colors Fund www.TrueColorsFund.org
Youth First www.nokidsinprison.org