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Report: LGBT Youth Face Serious Discrimination in Justice System

A new report details higher rates of incarceration and discrimination among the country's LGBT youth. (iStockphoto)
A new report details higher rates of incarceration and discrimination among the country's LGBT youth. (iStockphoto)
February 23, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - New research shows LGBT people are facing higher rates of incarceration and unfair treatment in the country's criminal justice system.

The Movement Advancement (MAP) report says young LGBT people face more discrimination in legal proceedings, which makes them more likely to spend time in juvenile justice facilities.

Nate Balis, director with the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, says these youths also face stigmas in society, which can leave them homeless and more likely to have run-ins with police.

"Issues like truancy and probation violations, running away, prostitution," he says. "These are things that, while not in any way dangerous to public safety, we still see many young people being detained."

The report comes just two weeks after Gov. Bruce Rauner announced plans to close a troubled downstate youth detention center in Kewanee. Critics said the facility didn't have enough staff to keep the younger prisoners safe or healthy.

The report lays out suggestions for how to improve the safety of young people who are locked up.

Recommendations include asking Congress to change the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act to provide specific protections for homeless LGBT youth.

Balis says some of the ideas are similar to those in a Casey Foundation juvenile detention practice guide.

"If it's a person who we care about in our own lives, we'd do everything we can to want to keep kids out," Balis says. "We should do our best to make detention as safe as possible, but also used as rarely as possible, too."

Balis points to the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act as another important protection for LGBT youth. But he argues the MAP report confirms more work is needed to make sure laws like these are better enforced at the state level.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL