The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) announced Tuesday the release of a groundbreaking publication entitled, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in the Juvenile Justice System.” This comprehensive practice guide, written by NCLR Youth Project Director Shannan Wilber for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, provides juvenile justice agencies the tools to meet their obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of LGBT youth in their care.
The guide covers a broad range of topics, including nondiscrimination policies, staff training, talking with LGBT youth about sexuality and gender, and making individualized classification and housing decisions.
“Due to misinformation and bias, the justice system has too often subjected LGBT youth to unfair and unlawful treatment, including identity-based criminalization, unwarranted and prolonged incarceration, and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse,” said Wilber. “It is our hope that juvenile justice agencies will implement the recommendations in the guide to create an inclusive professional environment in which all youth, including LGBT youth, are safe and supported to be themselves.”
LGBT youth – who are at greater risk of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse in the justice system – make up to 20 percent of detained youth, which is a far greater percentage than their share of the general population. Although the guide is chiefly aimed at promoting the health and well-being of LGBT youth, its recommendations will benefit all youth in the justice system by exposing and challenging bias, promoting mutual respect and increasing professionalism.
“LGBT youth in the juvenile justice system are a particularly vulnerable population,” stated Malachi Garza, the Director of the Community Justice Network for Youth at the Haywood Burns Institute. “The information in this guide will increase understanding of LGBT youth, the nuances of their identities and their distinct needs. This information is critical in supporting staff, community providers and families that ultimately wish to see these youth well served and kept safe as they navigate an extremely difficult time in their lives. This publication is a foundational step towards creating equity and justice for all youth in the juvenile justice system.”
Assistant Director of the Office of Juvenile Justice Services in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, Anthony Celestine, adds: “As a seasoned juvenile justice practitioner, I view this practice guide as a beneficial tool that will aide our staff in reducing the traumatic effects of detention on all youth generally, and LGBT youth specifically. The guide will support our efforts to create a safe environment where all youth can feel comfortable to disclose and express their identities, a critical component of positive youth development that is often lacking in the homes, schools, and communities of our youth.”
Download the guide here.