Published January, 2009

Hidden Injustice: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in Juvenile Courts, The Equity Project (2009)

This report examines the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in juvenile courts nationwide. Despite the fact that LGBT youth comprise a significant portion (up to 13%) of youth in detention, they remain invisible to many juvenile justice professionals and are often treated unfairly and harshly in the justice system. Drawing from first-hand accounts of more than 50 LGBT youth and in-depth interviews of more than 60 juvenile court judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, probation officers, and detention staff from across the country, Hidden Injustice sheds light on the numerous barriers to fair and effective treatment of court-involved LGBT youth. Among these, it discusses common misconceptions about LGBT youth in the Juvenile Justice system; attempts to control, change, or punish LGBT adolescents' sexual orientation or gender identity; the impact of family rejection on these youth and their experience in the juvenile justice system, the lack of services available to meet the needs of LGBT youth, the harmful practices in pretrial detention, and the unsafe and unfair conditions of confinement for LGBT youth. It also discusses barriers to defense of LGBT youth that attorneys may face.

The report provides juvenile justice professionals, policymakers, and advocates with detailed practice and policy recommendations to help them address these problems. For example, one of the report's core recommendations is that juvenile justice professionals from judges to detention staff receive training and resources regarding the unique societal challenges facing LGBT youth and how this relates to their professional responsibilities. It also recommends that all agencies and offices involved in juvenile justice develop, adopt, and enforce official policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination against and mistreatment of LGBT youth.

The Appendix includes a model non-discriminatory services policy and a sample court order to ensure a transgender youth receives appropriate medical and mental health services related to gender transition.