LGBTQ Youth in the Juvenile courts

Sunday, November 20th, is National Transgender Remembrance Day.

In my experience, when there is an LGBTQ youth in detention, there is conflict:  Gay youth are picked on, lesbians are suspicious, transgender youth cannot sleep with their identified gender.  It is hard for traditional detention centers, grounded in an age of ‘boy’ or ‘girl,’ to keep up with the rising tide of multiple gender orientation identities.  But it is something to attend to.

The equity project has an report that they published in 2009.  I am including their core recommendations below from page 137-138.

I would add to the core recommendations below, that attending to the spiritual needs of the LGBTQ youth is paramount.  Often, God has been used as a weapon.  Full healing and restoration cannot happen if they feel that God hates them.

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The following core recommendations are designed to enhance the capacity of juvenile justice professionals to work effectively with LGBT youth. To help ensure the rights of LGBT youth and meet their rehabilitative needs in delinquency and status offense cases, the Equity Project recommends the following:

  1. Juvenile justice professionals (including judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, probation officers, and detention staff) must treat—and ensure others treat—all LGBT youth with fairness, dignity, and respect, including prohibiting any attempts to ridicule or change a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
  2. Juvenile justice professionals must promote the well-being of transgender youth by allowing them to express their gender identity through choice of clothing, name, hairstyle, and other means of expression and by ensuring that they have access to appropriate medical care if necessary.
  3. Juvenile justice professionals must receive training and resources regarding the unique societal, familial, and developmental challenges confronting LGBT youth and the relevance of these issues to court proceedings. Trainings must be designed to address the specific professional responsibilities of the audience (i.e., judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, probation officers, and detention staff).
  4. Juvenile justice professionals must develop individualized, developmentally appropriate responses to the behavior of each LGBT youth, tailored to address the specific circumstances of his or her life.
  5. All agencies and offices involved in the juvenile justice system (including courts, as well as prosecutor, defender, and probation offices, and detention facilities) must develop, adopt, and enforce policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination and mistreatment of youth on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity at all stages of the juvenile justice process, from initial arrest through case closure.
  6. Juvenile courts must commit to using the least restrictive alternative necessary when intervening in the lives of youth and their families and avoid unnecessary detention and incarceration.
  7. Juvenile courts must collaborate with other system partners and decision makers to develop and maintain a continuum of programs, services, and placements competent to serve LGBT youth, ranging from prevention programs to alternatives to detention to nonsecure and secure out-of-home placements and facilities. Programs should be available to address the conflict that some families face over the sexual orientation and gender identity of their LGBT child.
  8. Juvenile justice professionals and related stakeholders must ensure adequate development, oversight and monitoring of programs, services, and placements competent to serve LGBT youth.
  9. Juvenile courts must ensure the timely appointment of qualified and well-resourced counsel to provide zealous defense advocacy at all stages of delinquency proceedings.
  10. Juvenile justice professionals must take responsibility for protecting the civil rights, and ensuring the physical and emotional well-being and safety, of LGBT youth placed in out-of-home placements.
  11. Juvenile justice  professionals must adhere to all confidentiality and privacy protections afforded LGBT youth. These protections must prohibit disclosure of information about a youth’s sexual orientation and gender identity to third parties, including the youth’s parent or guardian, without first obtaining the youth’s consent.

Hidden Injustice:  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in Juvenile Courts

by:  Katayoon Majd, National Juvenile Defender Center, Jody Marksamer, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Carolyn Reyes, Legal Services for Children

© 2009 Legal Services for Children, National Juvenile Defender Center, and
National Center for Lesbian Rights.

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