In his testimony before the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, Dr. Robert Bidwell discusses the shortcomings of youth detention centers in protecting LGBT teens from harassment and violence. Dr. Bidwell is a pediatrician at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF). In his testimony, he discusses the cases of three LGBT youth who prevailed in a federal lawsuit against HYCF for the harassment and assault they faced because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. HYCF staff witnessed the harassment and did not intervene, and in some cases the staff were the perpetrators of the abuse. He testifies that this type of abuse is pervasive; not only at HYCF, but also at juvenile detention centers around the country, and that it is perpetuated by institutional anti-LGBT sentiment at these institutions. Most institutions lack effective policies and procedures to train staff about LGBT issues and to respond to instances of abuse. Without comprehensive staff sensitivity training, an effective grievance procedure for LGBT youth facing harassment, and LGBT supportive messages and role models within the facility, LGBT youth will continue to face harassment and discrimination. Bidwell advocates for the creation of nationally recognized standards for the treatment of LGBT youth in confinement. While all youth in detention face some risk of violence, Dr. Bidwell discusses the institutional nature of the violence perpetrated against LGBT youth and the severe impact it has on these youths' development and well-being. A comprehensive, national standard of care and confinement that specifically addresses the experience and needs of LGBT youth would be the most effective safeguard to these kinds of abuses.
For more information on this topic, read about CHLP's Teen SENSE initiative to create national standards for comprehensive, LGBT-inclusive sexual health care for youth in state custody.