Post submitted by Jamie DiNicola, HRC McClearly Law Fellow

Last month, Movement Advancement Project, YouthFirst and Center for American Progress, in partnership with HRC, released Unjust: LGBTQ Youth Incarcerated in the Juvenile Justice System, a comprehensive report examining the pervasive systemic failures that harm LGBTQ youth. As this report underscores, without understanding the intricate ways in which the criminal justice system fails this vulnerable population, we cannot change it.

Unjust provides advocates, stakeholders, and government officials with straightforward information about the disproportionately negative impact the criminal justice system has on LGBTQ youth. While LGBTQ youth make up less than 9 percent of youth in the U.S., they are 20 percent of the youth detained in juvenile justice facilities.

Unjust documents the root causes behind these disparities. LGBTQ youth are at a higher risk for homelessness and school discrimination. Additionally, once in the system, they are frequently targeted for discrimination by law enforcement and juvenile justice facility staff. Due to these and other factors, LGBTQ youth are two times more likely to be part of the criminal justice system when compared to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.

The greatest antidote to injustice is knowledge. By providing a comprehensive analysis of how the criminal justice system fails LGBTQ youth, Unjust is sending a resounding message of change. From unjust policing practices to family rejection, poverty, homelessness, school inadequacies, healthcare discrimination, identity documents, and re-entry programs, Unjust illustrates starkly how the system fails our most vulnerable. There is much work to do, and Unjust provides indispensable tools needed in the fight for dignity, respect, and equality.


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