LGBT Youth More Likely to Call Juvenile Prisons Home


Written by Eric Murphy

New research demonstrates that LGBT youth are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system, comprising as much as 15 percent of the general population due to the institutional and family pressures that leave them more vulnerable to homelessness, prostitution, and violence.

Aisha Moodie-Mills, the moderator of the event and an LGBT Policy and Racial Justice Advisor at the Center for American Progress, presented the research on behalf of Dr. Anglea Irvine.

LGBT youth are twice as likely to become homeless as their straight peers, generally because they can’t find acceptance among their family members and either voluntarily leave or are forced out. According to Irvine, those who are left to fend for themselves participate in underground, illegal economies and sometime resort to prostitution, or what Dr. Irvine called “survival sex.” Due to these desperate situations, LGBT boys are more likely to commit violent offenses compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

Often school can act as a safe haven for many children who deal with hardship at home, but for LGBT youth who face bullying not only from their peers, but from insensitive staff and teachers too, attending school regularly and staying focused on getting good grades come second to survival. Marie Williams of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network said that her organization has documented significant “school pushout of LGBT kids” because of an inhospitable environment. GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Study found that nearly one-third of LGBT students had missed at least one day of school in the last month because they felt unsafe.

Zero-tolerance policies at schools also turn a blind eye to homophobic-induced confrontations LGBT youth face at schools; penalizing all parties involved, including those who defend themselves from bullies. 40 percent of LGBT youth reported being physically harassed and 19 percent reported being physically assaulted at school in the last year.

Once in the juvenile justice system, unique issues that face the young LGBT community are exacerbated. Left isolated and without a support system or advocates, the system tends to treat them much harsher than their cisgender counterparts. Sometimes when LGBT youth find themselves in prison, they are put into solitary confinement because prisons don’t know how to integrate them into the general prison population.

The panel concluded that the struggle to keep LGBT youth from being disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system starts with changing societal attitudes toward the LGBT community so that LGBT kids are accepted rather than pushed out into desperate situations that can lead them to participate illegal activities for survival. The battle comes down to fighting the notions that gender non-conforming behavior needs to be corrected, that people who identify as LGBT are somehow predatory or deviant, and that an LGBT identity is “wrong.” With full acceptance and equal treatment in the eyes of society and the law, the particular problems that face LGBT youth interacting with the criminal justice system can be minimized.

This post was originally published by Campus Progress.


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Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

a sad world we live in, when because you love differently society shames you or targets you. live and let live. love and let love. and for the religious right, surely you have SOMETHING more to focus on than whose penis goes where and whose vagina hasnt been properly laid. come on people. get a hobby

diana malko
diana malko5 years ago

You are born that way ,there isn't a choice.There is more important things in this world to worry able.

diana malko
diana malko5 years ago

You are born that way ,there isn't a choice.There is more important things in this world to worry able.

Emily Drew
Emily Drew5 years ago

This is very sad. Especially the part about "insensitive staff and teachers" in school. This is definitely true and I have experienced it myself, it definitely sucked. Luckily it is getting much better though, and hopefully it will continue. Just have to be optimistic! Well that and ignore the people like Elaine A and Michelle H.

And by the way Elaine, I did choose this "life style" because I want to be discriminated against, bullied, and looked at as some criminal. Please read with sarcasm obviously. I am sorry I just do not understand how people think it is a choice.

Alexis L.
Past Member 5 years ago

Best part about Elaine A and her homophobia: If you go to her profile you'll see that she listed "Fried Green Tomatoes" as one of her favorite films. It also happens to be a lesbian film, based on a very lesbian book. :) Happy watching!

Karen Howard
Karen H5 years ago

Oh, Elaine H and Michelle H, you are so closed minded it’s pathetic. I feel sorry for you. What a childhood you must have had—you were fed a diet of fear. That’s F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real. You’ve been brainwashed to believe what “authority figures” told you rather than to experience life and think for yourself, and you accepted their hatred and fear as your own. How sad!
Elaine, your comment “You know what I don't give a rats diddle if you are gay or straight!” is false because you do care, otherwise you wouldn’t be commenting.
It’s interesting that you both think a person CHOOSES to be bullied, ostracized, beaten, shunned, and driven (in many cases) to suicide.
So sad.
My Bible doesn’t have a verse that says: And Jesus said, “Go and hate in My name.”
It seems yours does.

Timothy Wood
Timothy W5 years ago

Elaine A.
I am new to all of this commenting thing, but I can already tell I am going to like, not liking you. It isn't often I would say such a thing to anyone, but I bow as I say, you are truly worthy of my dislike. People like you just make me smile because it helps me remember that even my truest enemies can still be quite funny...even if it is a very dark humor.

Michael T.
I got home from a really bad night at many redneck good ole boys for one night.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making me smile and laugh out loud with your response to Elaine A. I think you may have been correct about the meds.

Prentise Wylie
pre,tpse w5 years ago

Teens who are vilified and rejected are more likely to be homeless and get into trouble, especially if their parents don't support them. When teens run away from abusive homes, rather than giving help to the family, the young people are imprisoned and usually, if anything, the parents are punished, and all of this is at taxpayer expense.

When I was a teen, there was an epidemic of teens going to "juvie"-- it was so common, it was almost a joke, albeit a sad one. No one admitted they were homosexual then; there was no support for it at all; everyone was terrified of it (and no one even considered that their fear was based on their fear of their own inner urges); and Peyton Place taught us that it was so shameful that if you were gay or lesbian, you should kill yourself.

Of course, the hateful homophobics of the world still exist and still spew venom, but there are millions more of us who realize that homosexuality is biologically determined; and if there is a God in charge of everything, that god made people the way they are sexually. I'm guessing that the more homosexuality becomes a non-issue, the less predominance such teens will have in prisons.

Angela N.
Angela N5 years ago


Beth K.
.5 years ago

If you have the stomach to actually read any of Elaine's rants, never forget that she is an idiot. It will help keep things in perspective.