From Senate Republicans to Hillary Clinton, there is a rare and growing consensus across the political spectrum that, with the highest incarceration rate in the world, the United States’ criminal justice system in need of reform. However, one population has been largely absent from the discussion: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people.
A major report released today offers the most comprehensive analysis to date of how LGBTQ people, and particularly LGBTQ people of color, face higher rates of incarceration and unfair treatment and abuse in the criminal justice system. Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People was co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Center for American Progress (CAP), in partnership with Forward Together, JustLeadershipUSA, and the Advancement Project.
The report documents how pervasive stigma and discrimination, biased enforcement of laws, and discriminatory policing strategies mean that LGBTQ people are disproportionately likely to interact with law enforcement and to have their lives criminalized. The report also sheds light on the fact that LGBTQ people face unique and considerable challenges in the struggle to rebuild their lives after experiences with law enforcement—and particularly after time spent in a correctional facility.
To illustrate the real impact of these failures in the criminal justice system, the report highlights personal stories of LGBTQ people impacted by the criminal justice system and spotlights innovative programs, initiatives, and organizations from around the country.
The report paints a harrowing picture of the three ways in which the broken system fails LGBTQ people:
ENTERING THE SYSTEM: INCREASED CRIMINALIZATION OF LGBT PEOPLE
Three factors increase the chances that an LGBT person will be stopped or arrested by police and pushed into the system:
· Discrimination and stigma in society, housing, workplaces, families and communities leave LGBT people more likely to live in poverty or be homeless, which in turn leads to increased risk of having encounters with law enforcement and, ultimately, criminalization.
· Discriminatory enforcement of criminal laws targets LGBT people, including HIV criminalization laws, drug laws, and laws criminalizing consensual sex.
· Harmful policing strategies and tactics push LGBT people, especially LGBT people of color and low-income LGBT people, into the criminal justice system.
IN THE SYSTEM: LGBT PEOPLE ARE MORE FREQUENTLY INCARCERATED AND TREATED HARSHLY
Within the criminal justice system, LGBT people face two main challenges:
· Discrimination in legal proceedings leaves LGBT people more likely to spend time in juvenile justice facilities, adult correctional facilities, and immigration detention facilities.
· Unfair and inhumane treatment in jails, prisons, and other confinement facilities puts LGBT people at risk of violence, physical and sexual assault, and harassment by staff and fellow inmates. Incarcerated transgender people often lack access to competent, medically-necessary healthcare and when they are placed in facilities according to their birth sex, transgender people are at increased risk for harassment and sexual assault.
LIFE AFTER CONVICTION: LGBT PEOPLE FACE ADDED CHALLENGES TO REBUILDING LIVES
There are two primary post-conviction challenges for LGBT people:
· Discrimination and a lack of cultural competency in probation, parole, and re-entry programs mean LGBT people may not receive the assistance they need. For example, hostile parole officers or unsafe group housing conditions may lead to LGBT people violating the terms of release or community supervision in order to feel safe, putting them at risk of being reincarcerated.
· The impact of having a criminal record is substantial and touches every aspect of a person’s life. For people who already struggle with pervasive discrimination, such as LGBT people and people of color, the added challenges of having a criminal record create substantial barriers to rebuilding one’s life and avoiding future interactions with the criminal justice system. For LGBT immigrants, regardless of immigration status, having a criminal record can easily lead to deportation.
See more findings below: