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The Unfair Criminalization of Gay and Transgender Youth

The Unfair Criminalization of Gay and Transgender Youth

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Jerome Hunt and Aisha C. Moodie-Mills overview the unfair experiences LGBT youth go through in the juvenile justice system.
Jerome Hunt and Aisha C. Moodie-Mills overview the unfair experiences LGBT youth go through in the juvenile justice system.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Center for American Progress on Jun 29, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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1Center or American Progress |  The Unair Criminalization o Gay and Transgender Youth
 The Unfair Criminalizationof Gay and Transgender Youth
An Overview of the Experiences of LGBT Youthin the Juvenile Justice System
By Jerome Hunt and Aisha Moodie-Mills June 29, 2012
Gay, ransgender, and gender nonconorming youh are signicanly over-represenedin he juvenile jusice sysem—approximaely 300,000 gay and ransgender youh arearresed and/or deained each year, o which more han 60 percen are black or Laino.
 Tough gay and ransgender
youh represen jus 5 percen o 7 percen o he naion’soverall youh populaion, hey compose 13 percen o 15 percen o hose currenly inhe juvenile jusice sysem.
 Tese high raes o involvemen in he juvenile jusice sysem are a resul o gay andransgender youh abandonmen by heir amilies and communiies, and vicimizaionin heir schools—sad realiies ha place his group o young people a a heighened risk o enering he school-o-prison pipeline.Despie he disproporionaely high raes o gay and ransgender youh enering he juve-nile jusice sysem, our naion’s schools, law enorcemen ocers, disric atorneys, judges,and juvenile deenders are no equipped o manage he unique experiences and challengesha hese young people ace. As a consequence, he sysem oen does more harm by unairly criminalizing hese youh—imposing harsh school sancions, labeling hem assex oenders, or deaining hem or minor oenses—in addiion o subjecing hem odiscriminaory and harmul reamen ha deprives hem o heir basic civil righs. Angela Irvine o he Naional Council on Crime and Delinquency in conjuncion wihhe Equiy Projec, which works o ensure gay and ransgender youh in he juvenile jusice sysem are reaed wih airness and respec, have boh generaed groundbreakingresearch on he experiences o hese youh in he sysem over he pas ew years. Tisissue brie oers a high-level summary o some o heir ndings, as well as ohers, oexplain he disproporionae pipelining o gay and ransgender youh ino he juvenile
2Center or American Progress |  The Unair Criminalization o Gay and Transgender Youth
 jusice sysem, he bias and discriminaion hey ace once wihin he sysem, and heseps ha he ederal governmen and sae and local juvenile cours can ake o ensureha gay and ransgender youh are reaed wih digniy and respec.
Why gay and transgender youth end up in the juvenile justice system
Family rejection, homelessness, and failed safety nets
Research shows ha gay and ransgender youh enering ino he juvenile jusice sysemare wice as likely o have experienced amily confic, child abuse, and homelessness asoher youh.
Tis rend is parly due o he ac ha youh oday “come ou” a youngerages, oen o amilies ha may no accep gay and ransgender people. Since hese youhsill depend on heir amilies o mee heir maerial needs, amily rejecion can leavehem emoionally and physically vulnerable, paricularly i hey nd hemselves casono he srees wih nowhere o urn or suppor.Many gay and ransgender youh leave heir homes o heir own accord o escape heconfic and emoional or physical abuse ha can ensue—26 percen repor leaving heirhomes a some poin—bu more oen, hey are pushed ou and ino he juvenile jusicesysem by heir own amilies.Ineramily confics semming rom parens’ reusal o accep a child’s sexual oriena-ion or gender ideniy oen resul in he rs conac hese young people have wihhe jusice sysem. According o he Equiy Projec, prosecuors requenly le chargesagains hese youh or being “incorrigible” or beyond he conrol o heir parens orguardians, based largely on he paren’s objecions o heir sexual orienaion.
Tispracice unairly criminalizes gay and ransgender youh because o heir ideniy raherhan because o heir behavior.Furher, amily discord ha cass hese youh rom heir homes can send hem cascad-ing hrough social saey nes no adequaely equipped o suppor hem. Programsdesigned o keep children and youh o he srees, such as oser care, healh ceners,and oher youh-serving insiuions, are oen ill-prepared or unsae or gay and rans-gender youh due o insiuional prejudice, lack o provider and oser-paren rain-ing, and discriminaion agains gay and ransgender youh by aduls and peers.
As aresul, many youh run away rom hese placemens, acions ha could also land hemin he cusody o he juvenile jusice sysem.Gay and ransgender youh who fee hosiliy and abuse a home and in emporary placemens are mos likely o end up homeless, which is he greaes predicor o involvemen wih he juvenile jusice sysem.
Gay and ransgender youh represen
3Center or American Progress |  The Unair Criminalization o Gay and Transgender Youth
up o 40 percen o he homeless youh populaion even hough hey only compose 5percen o 7 percen o he youh populaion overall, and 39 percen o homeless gay andransgender youh repor being involved in he juvenile jusice sysem a some level.
 Ou o despair and a need or survival, homeless gay and ransgender youh are morelikely o resor o criminal behaviors, such as drug sales, he, or “survival sex,” whichpu hem a risk o arres and deainmen.
Tese youh are also a an increased risk o deainmen or commiting crimes relaed o homelessness, such as violaing youhcurew laws and sleeping in public spaces.
Family rejecion, which ses o a ragic chain o evens or many gay and ransgender youh,is a he core o hese issues. Cailin Ryan o he Family Accepance Projec a San FranciscoSae Universiy, whose research has brough o ligh he negaive impacs ha amily rejec-ion can have on gay and ransgender youh, emphasizes he need o provide opporuniieso help suppor and srenghen amilies in order o promoe nururing environmens orgay and ransgender children.
Early inervenion can help amilies and caregivers reducehe risk o hese youh enering he juvenile jusice sysem. I is imporan ha law enorce-men ocials, disric atorneys, judges, and juvenile deenders seek ways o keep gay andransgender youh and heir amilies ogeher, raher han pushing or incarceraion.
Biased school discipline policies
Unorunaely, schools do no always provide a reprieve or youh experiencing am-ily rejecion. According o he Gay Lesbian and Sraigh Educaion Nework’s SchoolClimae Survey, 84 percen o gay and ransgender sudens repor being verbally harassed, 40 percen physically harassed, and 19 percen physically assauled.
  Wha’s more, gay and ransgender sudens repor asonishingly low levels o condencein heir school adminisraors and oen do no repor incidens because hey expeche siuaion will no improve or ear i migh even become worse. Tis is no surprisingconsidering ha one-hird
o bullied gay and ransgender sudens who repored bully-ing o school ocials said he adminisraors did nohing o address he issue.
In ac, school ocials in many ways exacerbae hese problems and place urher sressand burden on gay and ransgender youh by disproporionaely doling ou harsh schoolsancions agains hem or minor disciplinary inracions. Te school and juvenile jusicesysems have become inexricably linked in recen years wih schools relying heavily onlaw enorcemen o manage wha in he pas were school discipline issues.
Te conse-quence o his confaed discipline sysem is ha i unduly criminalizes youh o colorand gay and ransgender youh.

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