LGBTQ youth are astoundingly overrepresented in the justice system.
While only 7 to 9 percent of all youth nationwide identify as LGB, they make up 20 percent of all youth who are in juvenile justice facilities in the nation with LGB girls alone making up 39.4 percent. Of all these LGBT and gender non-conforming youth in juvenile justice facilities, 85 percent are of color.
To further investigate this inequity, Movement Advancement Project ( MAP ), an LGBTQ advocacy think tank, teamed with Youth First, a national anti-youth incarceration advocacy campaign, and the Center for American Progress, a policy advancement think tank, to produce "Unjust: LGBTQ Youth Incarcerated in the Juvenile Justice System."
This report outlines the organizations' research on numbers of youth incarceration in the United States and these youths' experiences while incarcerated. Not only are a disproportionate number of LGBTQ youth imprisoned, but they also are more likely to face mistreatment while incarcerated.
Because of varying degrees of regulation among different youth detention facilities, some private facilities operate entirely without licenses. While there are some standards in place for the treatment of incarcerated youth, like the Prison Rape Elimination Act, the overall lack of oversight in youth facilities creates inconsistencies in expectations for treatment. For example, in some states youth cannot be placed in adult jail for more than a few hours, others forbid it altogether and others automatically treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.
The lack of standardization creates clear variation across states because while some states have clear laws and boundaries, others develop their own guidelines for treatment of LGBTQ youth, the report states. This often leads to issues such as inappropriate placement based on gender, inadequate access to health care, lack of support services and difficulties with family visitations.
One of the biggest problems that incarcerated LGBTQ youth face is sexual assault and misconduct both by peers and staff members. Reports show that they are about twice as likely as heterosexual youth to face sexual contact with staff. One in five LGB boys ( 20 percent ) and 6.7 percent of LGB girls report sexual assault from peers, compared to 1.9 percent of heterosexual boys and 4.1 percent of heterosexual girls.
Such abuses and mistreatments cause lasting physical and psychological affects in many of these youths. According to the report, "Their experiences in the system do little to prepare them for a productive and healthy life as adults. Instead, too many LGBTQ youth, both as youth and as adults, find themselves in a cycle of poverty, homelessness, and incarceration."
To bring about an end to these injustices and the cycle it creates, the report makes various recommendations to help improve the rates of LGBTQ youth incarceration and their treatment while in the justice system, such as closing youth prisons and creating community-based alternatives.
See lgbtmap.org/criminal-justice-youth-detention .
Infographic at www.windycitymediagroup.com/pdf/YouthJailInfographic.pdf .