LGBTQ Community Over-Represented in Justice System: Report

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One-size-fits-all justice systems fail lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, who experience worse outcomes and are overrepresented in every part of the justice system, according to a new study released by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC).

Authors stated that “about 4 percent of Americans identify as LGBTQ, but only 8 percent of individuals in state and federal prisons and 7 percent of individuals in city and county jails identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.”

Specifically, in Texas, as of July 2018, 4,499 people in Texas prisons identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex, they continued.

The study found that, nationally, between 13 and 15 percent of youth who enter the justice system identify as LGBTQ, with roughly 300,000 LGBTQ youth arrested each year and of the seven million youth that reside in Texas, 158,500 (2 percent) identify as LGBTQ, including 13,800 transgender youth.

“For many LGBTQ youth, the combination of family rejection, mental health conditions, and substance use leaves them with few options for shelter, support, and safety,” said Ryan Carlino, the report author in a released statement.

“As LGBTQ youth shuffle between homes, foster care, shelters, and the streets, they are increasingly more likely to come into contact with law enforcement a situation that is only exacerbated by the lack of access to appropriate mental health and substance use support.”

Unaddressed trauma experienced during childhood may carry forward into adulthood, the study noted.

Often, LGBTQ adults in Texas experience mental health conditions at double the rate of the general population, while also having fewer supports from family and the community and when combined, these factors, contribute to higher rates of incarceration among LGBTQ people, authors said.

TCJC made the following policy recommendations:

  • Expand services and support for unsheltered and homeless LGBTQ youth and adults.
  • Develop a process for LGBTQ youth to obtain new government-issued identification to ensure their gender designation reflects their identified gender.
  • Establish mental health care and substance use services for LGBTQ youth and adults.
  • Require Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement officers to respond to LGBTQ youth and adults in crisis.
  • Divert LGBTQ individuals out of the justice system and address their needs through community programs.
  • Prohibit discrimination of LGBTQ people in employment and housing; a lack of access to these necessities increases the likelihood of system involvement.
  • Create an independent oversight entity to monitor conditions, allegations of abuse, and deprivation of rights, as well as identify opportunities for improvement for all incarcerated individuals, including vulnerable populations such as those who are LGBTQ.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

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