U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Unfair Criminalization of Gay and Transgender Youth: An Overview of the Experiences of LGBT Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

NCJ Number
Jerome Hunt; Aisha Moodie-Mills
Date Published
June 2012
12 pages
This paper summarizes recent research findings on the experiences of gay and transgender youth in the juvenile justice system and offers recommendations for reform.
Research shows that gay and transgender youth entering the juvenile justice system are twice as likely than other youth to have experienced family conflict, child abuse, and homelessness; 26 percent report leaving their homes at some point, most often being forced out by their parents. Social safety nets are not adequately resourced to support them when they are rejected by their families. Foster care, health centers, and other youth-serving institutions are often unsafe for gay and transgender youth due to institutional prejudice, lack of provider and foster-parent training, and discrimination against gay and transgender youth by adults and peers. It is not surprising, therefore, that their high-risk backgrounds bring them into contact with the juvenile justice system. Here, they are often denied basic civil rights and wrongly categorized as sexually deviant because of their sexual orientation or gender non-conformity. This misguided categorization by the courts has led gay and transgender youth who have not committed violent or sexual offenses to be placed in restrictive punitive settings for high-risk youth. They are then either segregated or subjected to sexual assault and other abuses. Recommendations for addressing this situation are to promote family center intervention; improve training for juvenile justice personnel on the nature, needs, and appropriate treatment and management of gay and transgender youth; the development of specific policies and procedures for interacting with and supervising such youth; and identifying and eliminating the links between the school discipline of gay and transgender youth and their juvenile justice processing. In addition, Federal legislation should be enacted that prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender youth in the juvenile justice system. 46 notes