By Julia Brady, Program Coordinator/Analyst (PREA)
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) youth are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. 7-9% of youth in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ, but 20% of residents in juvenile detention facilities are LGBTQ. Of that 20%, 85% are youth of color. The numbers are alarming and worthy of investigation. LGBTQ youth may end up overinvolved in the criminal justice system because:
Facing a High Risk of Sexual Abuse in Detention Not only are LGBTQ youth criminalized and funneled into the juvenile justice system, but they are also more likely to be victims of sexual violence once inside. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that 14.3% of non-heterosexual youth (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other sexual orientations) were victims of sexual abuse in detention in the 12 months prior to the study, versus 8.9% of heterosexual youth.[vi] Statistics compiled in “Unjust: LGBTQ Youth Incarcerated in the Juvenile Justice System” illustrate the horrifying rates at which LGBTQ youth are targeted for sexual victimization compared to their heterosexual peers in detention:[vii]
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was put in place to combat the human rights crisis that is prison rape in the United States, and includes provisions specifically aimed at protecting LGBTQ populations.
As the PREA standards were passed in 2012, there has been very little research done and published on their effectiveness.
Next Steps and Resources When working to end the problem of prison rape, we must take a comprehensive, intersectional approach. Holding juvenile detention facilities accountable for implementing these standards to the fullest is of extreme importance, but we also must tackle the issues that allow so many LGBTQ youth to become involved with the juvenile justice system in the first place. Our prevention efforts and our response to the issue of prison rape must be LGBTQ-inclusive. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted. Rape is not part of the punishment. Below are links to various resources and organizations to help in your fight to end the criminalization of LGBT youth and prison rape. Just Detention International PREA Resource Center Standing with LGBT Prisoners: An Advocate’s Guide to Ending Abuse and Combating Imprisonment ACLU: School-to-Prison Pipeline LGBT People and the Prison Rape Elimination Act End the Abuse: Protecting LGBTI Prisoners from Sexual Assault
Center for American Progress, Movement Advancement Project, “Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People,” Movement Advancement Project, February 2016, (http://www.lgbtmap.org/file/lgbt-criminal-justice.pdf); Center for American Progress, Movement Advancement Project, “Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People of Color,” Movement Advancement Project, August 2016, http://www.lgbtmap.org/policy-and-issue-analysis/criminal-justice-poc.
[ii] Irvine, Angela, “We’ve Had Three of Them’” Addressing the Invisibility of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Gender Non-Conforming Youths in the Juvenile Justice System,” Status Offense Reform Center, 2010, http://www.statusoffensereform.org/resource/weve-three-addressing-invisibility-lesbian-gay-bisexual-gender-non-conforming-youths-juvenile-justice-system.
[iii] Quintana, Nico Sifra, et al., “On the Streets: The Federal Response to Gay and Transgender Homeless Youth,” Center for American Progress, June 2010, https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2010/06/pdf/lgbtyouthhomelessness.pdf.
[iv] “School-To-Prison Pipeline,” ACLU, accessed July 20, 2017, https://www.aclu.org/issues/racial-justice/race-and-inequality-education/school-prison-pipeline.
[v] Brückner, Hannah; Himmelstein, Kathryn E. W., “Criminal Justice and School Sanctions Against Nonheterosexual Youth: A National Longitudinal Study,” Pediatrics 127, no. 1 (2010): 49-57, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2010/12/06/peds.2009-2306.full.pdf.
[vi] Beck, Allen J. et al., “Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2012,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2013, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/svjfry12.pdf.
[vii] Wilson et al., “Disproportionality and Disparities among Sexual Minority Youth in Custody,” Journal of Youth & Adolescence 46, no. 7 (2017): 1547-1561, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/articles/28093665/, quoted in Center for American Progress, Movement Advancement Project, “Unjust: LGBTQ Youth Incarcerated in the Juvenile Justice System,” Movement Advancement Project, June 2017, https://lgbtmap.org/file/lgbtq-incarcerated-youth.pdf.
[viii] National Standards To Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape, 28 CFR 115.315, Department of Justice, 2012, available at www.federalregister.gov/a/2012-12427.