LGBTQ Youth in the System

The painful challenges often faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth—harassment in school, histories of emotional and physical abuse, and high rates of mental illness and substance use—make LGBTQ young people more likely than their peers to get caught up in the youth justice system.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth routinely encounter harassment and discrimination in their homes, schools, and communities. LGBTQ youth are also more likely to face rejection by their families, become homeless and encounter child welfare systems, placing them at higher risk for justice system involvement. Once in the system, they too often enter an environment that is unsupportive, alienating, hostile and/or physically dangerous.

According to a national report from the Equity Project, Hidden Injustice: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in the Juvenile Courts, LGBTQ youth are often segregated from other youth, either in a misguided effort to protect them or based on the incorrect assumption that they are more likely to be sexually predatory. Additionally, the Equity Project found that incarcerated LGBTQ youth are particular targets for violence and bullying by other youth, with staff members frequently failing to protect them or even joining in the harassment and assault.

Advocates and researchers have noted further challenges faced by transgender and gender-nonconforming youth in placement, including neglect of medical needs, unsafe placement in youth facilities that disregards their gender identities, and high risk for abuse and assault by other youth and staff.

Despite enormous strides made in recent years by the LGBTQ rights movement, many of the serious risks facing LGBTQ youth remain—these risks only increase for the disproportionate number of LGBTQ youth who are court-involved.

Formal protections at all points along the youth justice continuum—from policing to community programs to residential placements to aftercare—are critical to keeping LGBTQ young people safe and ensuring that they receive culturally sensitive treatment and guidance in the system. To this end, the CA’s Juvenile Justice Project (JJP) has worked with fellow advocates and governmental allies to institute landmark anti-discrimination policies and guidelines at both the city and state levels–some of the most progressive of their kind nationwide. Moving forward, a significant CA effort is ensuring that these reforms result in on-the-ground benefits for LGBTQ young people in custody.

The voices of young people—in particular LGBTQ youth of color—and other community members most affected by incarceration are too often missing from public discourse on youth justice policy. The CA fosters the advocacy and leadership skills of LGBTQ youth through its Safe Passages training program and works to provide a platform for their voices to be heard in all of its advocacy and public education efforts.

Through its advocacy, research and coalition-building efforts, the CA works to transform the youth justice system into one that is safe, equitable, and culturally competent for all children.



News | January 9, 2017

CA Applauds Commitment to Raise the Age in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, Laments No Mention of Racism, Violence, and Abuse in NYS Prisons

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CA Applauds Commitment to Raise the Age in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, Laments No Mention of Racism, Violence, and Abuse in NYS Prisons January 9, 2017 (New York, NY): The Correctional Association of New York roundly applauds the continued commitment of Governor Andrew Cuomo to raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, ending the prosecution and incarceration of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.Read More

News | December 28, 2016

Departing RTA Campaign Manager Angelo Pinto on Why – and How – New York State Must Raise the Age


Angelo Pinto joined the CA’s Juvenile Justice Project in July 2012 to oversee our Raise the Age Campaign, which seeks to increase New York State’s age of criminal responsibility, end the practice of housing children in adult jails and prisons, and ensure that children in the justice system receive appropriate rehabilitative services. New York remains one of only two states, along with North Carolina, that still prosecutes and incarcerates 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. In this brief interview, as we approach a new legislative session in New York State and continued calls to Raise the Age, Angelo shares his insights, perspective, and advice on how the CA and our partners in this fight can most effectively advocate for this much-needed policy change.Read More

News | September 22, 2016

Board of the Correctional Association of New York Appoints Carlton S. Mitchell Interim Executive Director

CSM photo

On September 22, 2016, the Board of Directors of the Correctional Association of New York announced the appointment of Carlton S. Mitchell as Interim Executive Director. He will start his duties in September 2016. Read More

News | June 6, 2016


New York, NY (June 6, 2016): Today, advocates from across New York State will begin an extended sleep-in at the State Capitol, timed to coincide with the waning days of the legislative session, in order to push elected officials to pass legislation this year raising the age of criminal responsibility. New York remains one of only two states, along with North Carolina, to continue prosecuting 16-and 17-year-olds as adults. Juveniles in adult facilities are more likely to suffer sexual, mental and physical abuse, are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than those held in juvenile facilities, and have a higher rate of re-arrest and recidivism. Read More

News | June 6, 2016

Faith Leaders from Across New York Urge Cuomo, Flanagan and Heastie to Raise the Age this Session

Albany, NY- (June 6, 2016): Clergy from across New York State released a letter today addressed to Governor Cuomo, Senator Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Heastie calling on them to pass legislation that would raise the age at which youth are charged as adults in New York.Read More

News | March 23, 2016

CA Launches Online Video Campaign Urging Governor, Assembly and Senate Heads to Keep “Raise the Age” Bill in Budget

(March 23, 2016, New York, NY): Today, the Correctional Association of New York (CA) launched an online video campaign aimed at pressuring lawmakers to raise the age of criminal responsibility. The release of the videos, which range from 30 to 90 seconds in length, is timed to coincide with the intense budget discussions currently taking place in Albany, as the April 1 deadline looms over the process.Read More

News | December 23, 2015

CA Disappointed, Dismayed that Governor’s Removal of 16- And-17-Year-Olds From Adult Prisons Will Keep Youth Under DOCCS Authority

(December 23, 2015, New York, NY): Today, the Correctional Association of New York (CA) released the following statement in response to the announcement yesterday that Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order to remove 16- and 17-year-old youths from adult prisons: The Correctional Association of New York is disappointed that Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order removes sixteen- and seventeen-year-old youth from adult prisons, only to place them in a separate facility under the total supervision of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). Through our unique legislative mandate to monitor the state’s prison system, the CA has consistently found DOCCS staff routinely mistreats and abuses people in their custody and deprives them of the quality mental health, education, and supportive services they need and deserve. Read More

News | December 16, 2015


(December 16, 2015, New York, NY): Today, the Correctional Association of New York (CA), the state’s oldest criminal justice reform organization, released the following statement in reaction to the announcement of an agreement with the state of New York resulting from litigation challenging NYDOCCS’ use of solitary confinement:Read More

News | June 23, 2015


(June 23, 2015, New York, NY): Today, The Correctional Association of New York (CA) released the following statement in response to the failure the New York State Legislature to pass Raise the Age legislation this session: It is extremely disappointing that the Legislature and Governor did not come to an agreement to pass raise the age legislation this session, thereby failing to perform the most basic and vital role of protecting our children.Read More

News | June 15, 2015


June 15, 2015 - In an open letter to be hand-delivered to Albany today, sixty state-wide and national organizations including international human rights groups, social workers, faith-based organizations and children's advocates, strongly urged the passage of Raise the Age legislation before the sessions ends this week.Read More

CA in the Press | March 28, 2017

Guest Essay: Raise the Age

New York remains one of only 2 states in the nation treating 16 and 17 year-olds as something they are not — adults— in our criminal justice system. This archaic approach increases the likelihood of more crime, more severe crime, and seriously damages the education, employment and long-term life prospects of our youth, particularly the African-American and Hispanic children disproportionately ensnared by our criminal justice system.Read More

CA in the Press | February 19, 2017

Petition: Cuomo’s plan to reduce visitation at NY maximum security prisons ‘cruel’

A petition has been signed by more than 2,100 people opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reduce visitation at New York’s 17 maximum security correctional facilities. As of Saturday afternoon, there are 2,102 supporters of the petition titled “Don’t Restrict Visits in NYS Prisons!” The petition calls the governor’s plan to alter the visitation policy “regressive, counterproductive and cruel.” The initial goal for the petition is 2,500 supporters.Read More

| January 13, 2017

Activist Check-In Podcast: Raise the Age with Angelo Pinto

In New York State, 16 and 17-year-olds arrested or detained can be sent to adult prisons and jails. Despite multiple studies that show a teenager’s brain functions are not fully developed, our state insists on charging young people like adults, creating a generation of over-incarcerated youth in New York. We sat down to speak with Justice League Member, Angelo Pinto about the campaign to raise the age.Read More

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CA in the Press | January 3, 2017

Letter to the Editor: Alleviating the Pain When a Parent Is in Jail

To the Editor: Re “Serving as a Role Model During a Father’s Absence” (The Neediest Cases, Dec. 21): It’s nice to see young Jaylen benefit from the MentorCHIP program. But children whose parents are incarcerated need regular visits with their parents. Studies show that children’s emotional, scholastic and social adjustment improve when they have regularly scheduled visits to alleviate the pain of losing a parent.Read More

CA in the Press | May 11, 2016

VIDEO: Mothers asking lawmakers to “Raise the Age”

ALBANY–A group of mothers from across the Empire State met in Albany Tuesday, calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other lawmakers to raise the age at which children can be tried as an adult. They argue it’s a matter of protecting children. “We protect them in so many other ways, with respect to when we allow them to drive, when we allow them to swim by themselves in a public swimming pool, when we allow them to smoke cigarettes, when we allow them to vote, when we allow them to be drafted or go fight in a war, but the one place we don’t protect them is when it comes to the criminal justice system,” said Soffiyah Elijah.Read More

CA in the Press | September 29, 2015

Report: NYC Criminal Justice System Needs to Reform How It Treats LGBTQ Youth

The criminal justice system in New York City is ill equipped to deal with the needs of LGBTQ young people who engage in survival sex, according to a new report from the Urban Institute. Youth cycle through the system, an experience that compounds the difficulties that may initially have led them to have survival sex, said Meredith Dank, lead author of the report and a senior research associate at the institute.Read More

CA in the Press | July 15, 2015

Windows from Prison Provides Visions of Home

The women in Clearman’s workshop who chose to participate wrote letters detailing the location they wanted photographed, instructions for the photographer and, in some instances, a brief explanation of why the location was important to them. Requests were also received from a nearby juvenile detention facility. Strandquist’s only stipulation was that the locations be within the New York City metropolitan area.Read More

CA in the Press | June 29, 2015

‘Raise the Age’ effort fails; youth can still be prosecuted and tried as adults

To the dismay of the Raise the Age NY Campaign and its supporters, lawmakers did not reach an agreement on changing the age of criminal responsibility in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had prioritized raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York to 18, mentioning it in his State of the State Address and it was also a goal of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus in the Legislature.Read More

CA in the Press | April 28, 2015

Advocates urge age change

Anjeliique Wadlington, incarcerated as a youth, speaks at Raise The Age NY press conferencePhoto credit: John Carl D’Annibale/Times Union Formerly incarcerated youths and their family members stood with advocates at the Capitol Tuesday to share their firsthand interactions with the criminal justice system and hoping to convince lawmakers to raise the state’s age of criminal responsibility before the end of the legislative session in June.Read More

CA in the Press | April 13, 2015

Girls Fare Better in Open-Door Justice Programs

If a girl in New York State gets arrested by the police and winds up in a juvenile detention facility her horizons quickly close in. Just ask Marsha Weissman, executive director of a group called the Center for Community Alternatives, which has locations in New York City, Syracuse and Rochester. “Our work with adult women .Read More

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Reports & Research

When the Cure Makes You Ill: Seven Core Principles to Change the Course of Youth Justice

Our current youth justice system “systematically fails young people, their families, crime victims, and public safety, often at exorbitant taxpayer cost,” writes Gabrielle Prisco, director of the Correctional Association’s Juvenile Justice Project. Prisco’s article, When the Cure Makes You Ill: Seven Core Principles to Change the Course of Youth Justice, outlines seven principles necessary to transform the youth justice system, beginning with principle one: treat children as children.Read More

Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Summer 2012

In this issue; The Close to Home Initiative: youth leaders speak out; The Prison Rape Elimination Act; Welcome to CA’s new staff and board membersRead More

Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Summer 2009

In this issue; Full update on the Rockefeller Drug Law reformsRead More

Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Fall 2007

In this issue; Victory: healthcare coverage for people leaving prison; Advances in Treatment for incarcerated individuals with mental illness; Safe harbor for exploited childrenRead More

Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Spring 2007

In this issue; The Juvenile Justice Project at 10: A Look Back and Forward; Safe Passages: the CA’s Unique New Program; Prison Visiting Project Launches Substance Abuse Treatment Study; Public Forum Addresses Future of Criminal Justice PolicyRead More

Fact Sheets

Transgender Issues and the Criminal Justice System

Transgender Issues and the Criminal Justice System What is “transgender”? The term “transgender” describes people who understand or express their gender differently than what society expects based on the gender they were assigned at birth. This term includes people who change from one gender to another, people who express different gender characteristics, and people whose gender expression cannot be clearly defined as “masculine” or “feminine.” What is “transition”?Read More

Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Spring 2006

In this issue; Jack testifies on the National Stage; Prison through the lens of gender; The end of ATD may bode well for Juvenile JusticeRead More

Fact Sheets

LGBT Youth in Detention: Myth and Reality

Myth #1: “Adolescents are too young to know that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.” Reality: A research study of lesbian, gay, bisexual youth found that the average age of awareness about sexual orientation was 10.1 The average age that youth first disclosed their sexual orientation was 14.2 Myth #2 “LGBT youth are manipulative.” Reality: Individuals who are targeted for abuse and harassment have to find ways to protect themselves.Read More