Report: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBTQ Youth

A report released by the Center for American Progress and the Movement Advancement Project explores the profiling, bias and maltreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth in the juvenile-justice system.

According to the authors of “Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBTQ Youth,” issues like anti-LGBTQ discrimination in communities and families, unsafe schools, and unfair enforcement of laws related to sexual behavior and drug use make it much more likely that these youth will end up in the system.

About 57,000 LGBTQ youth reside in juvenile detention and correctional facilities on any given day. Twenty percent of youth in juvenile justice facilities identify as LGBTQ compared with seven to nine percent of youth in the general population. The authors also point to some evidence that shows a racial disproportionality among the population of LGBTQ youth detained in these facilities.

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-1-52-06-pmSeveral factors may lead to deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system for LGBTQ youth. Bias during court proceedings, sentencing and the pre-trial release process exacerbate the experience of these youth while unsafe placements, lax oversight of facilities and abuse by other youth are part the mistreatment often faced by LGBTQ youth during detention.

Finally, barriers like a lack of access to health and supportive services make it difficult for many youth to transition to independence after detention.

The report presents a series of recommendations for policymakers, advocates and government agencies. Specific recommendations are presented in the following areas:

  • Increase support for and acceptance of LGBT young people within families, schools, communities and institutions
  • Work to reduce homelessness among LGBT youth
  • Eliminate discriminatory laws that target LGBTQ youth
  • Reform policing strategies to reduce discrimination against and targeting of LGBTQ youth
  • Reduce the number of youth held in juvenile facilities
  • Reduce discrimination in the juvenile justice system
  • Improve safety of and resources available to LGBTQ youth in juvenile facilities
  • Improve support for LGBTQ youth who are released from juvenile facilities

To read the report, click here.

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Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change
About Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change 342 Articles
Jeremy is a West Coast-based senior editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at