True Juvenile Justice Reform Must Include Needs of LGBTQ Girls
Date:  08-28-2015

Report finds 40 percent of girls in juvenile justice system consider themselves as LGBTQ or gender non-conforming
Readers of Reentry Central are familiar with a story we continue to follow about a trans 15- year old girl who was sent to a Connecticut adult prison for females even though she was not charged with a crime, and then sent to a “training center” for juvenile boys. The treatment of the teen, known as “Jane Doe,” sparked international outrage, and her attorney is still working to address the situation within Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families. “Jane Doe,” after experiencing abuse and neglect by her biological family, was placed in Connecticut’s foster system where horrific sexual abuse continued. “Jane Doe” is not alone in her experience.

An August 27, 2015 article in the Huffington Post explains how LGBTQ girls often end up in foster care until they become a disproportionately large segment of the juvenile justice system. The article’s author claims that once these girls who have already experienced trauma in their short lives enter the juvenile justice system, their special needs are not recognized, compounding their trauma.

On July 14, 2015, Reentry Central posted a link to the report that is cited in the article, “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline, The Girls’ Story.”

Juvenile Justice Reform Must Address the Unique Needs of LGBTQ Girls

By Hannah Hussey

After being in and out of court for offenses such as shoplifting clothing and fighting back at school, Destiny, a 15-year-old African American transgender girl, was sent to a high security juvenile detention facility for boys, since no other program would take her. Other youth at the facility regularly subjected her to sexual assault and intimidation. Meanwhile, the adults entrusted with her care did little to prevent this abuse, refusing to recognize her gender identity and even blaming her for the harassment. Once released, advocates worried that, if arrested again, Destiny would land in the adult criminal justice system, where she would be even less likely to receive services appropriate to her as a young transgender survivor of sexual violence and harassment.

Unfortunately, Destiny's story is not unique. Far too many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) youth who encounter the juvenile justice system are placed in facilities that fail to address past experiences of trauma or where they are at risk for sexual violence. Juvenile justice initiatives often fail to include the unique challenges confronted by young LGBTQ women of color in their approaches, making issues associated with sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression invisible.

Earlier this summer, a report on the sexual abuse to prison pipeline--through which girls who are survivors of trauma are funneled into a punitive juvenile justice system--found that, in some states, as many as 8 in every 10 girls in the juvenile justice system have a history of sexual or physical abuse. The report also notes that a high percentage of girls in the juvenile justice system--40 percent, most of whom are girls of color--identify as LGBTQ or as gender-nonconforming (GNC).

Read more.