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Report: LGBT Residents Let Down by Criminal Justice System

Less than 4 percent of the U.S. population is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but one in five young people in prison identify  that way. (Meesh/Flickr)
Less than 4 percent of the U.S. population is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but one in five young people in prison identify that way. (Meesh/Flickr)
February 29, 2016

BALTIMORE – The criminal justice system is failing LGBT Americans, according to a new report by the Movement Advancement Project, a gender and equal rights advocacy group.

Less than four percent of the population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but the report found twice that percentage among adults in jails, prisons and immigration detention facilities.

According to report author Naomi Goldberg, several factors are involved, including pervasive discrimination in the enforcement of laws.

"Whether it's drug enforcement laws or HIV criminalization laws, and discriminatory policing strategies – profiling, stop-and-frisk – that are used against LGBT people, particularly LGBT people of color," she states.

The report says LGBT people also are more likely to face abuse while incarcerated, and have more challenges rebuilding their lives after release.

The impact is even more pronounced on youth. Nate Balis, director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, points to figures for young people in detention.

"Upwards of 20 percent of young people were LGBTQ, which could be as many as three times higher than we believe that their percentage is in the general population," he stresses.

The Casey Foundation has published a practice guide for how LGBT youth in the juvenile justice system should be treated.

Balis says the first step is to reduce their over-representation in detention, by ending the use of law enforcement to solve problems that are not dangers to public safety.


Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD