CA Victory: OCFS Enacts Landmark Policy for Gay and Transgender Youth
In March, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) enacted an agency-wide anti-discrimination policy designed to support and protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in state juvenile facilities. It is estimated that ten percent of the thousands of young people in New York’s youth prisons are LGBTQ. Incarcerated LGBTQ young people report being slapped, hit, punched, kicked, threatened, and called names by other residents, with staff members not only failing to protect them, but at times even joining in the abuse.
To address these issues, Mishi Faruqee, Director of the CA’s Juvenile Justice Project, helped OCFS form the “Working Group on LGBT Youth in State Custody,” which she co-chaired alongside OCFS Commissioner Gladys Carrión. Working with OCFS and members from other juvenile justice organizations—Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Peter Cicchino Youth Project of the Urban Justice Center, Legal Aid Society, and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund—the working group helped draft the new policy, which includes comprehensive childcare guidelines for working with LGBTQ youth. Among its provisions, the policy:
- Prohibits anti-LGBTQ threats of violence, actual violence, discrimination or harassment by OCFS personnel or other youth;
- Mandates prompt and thorough reporting, investigation and remediation regarding cases of discrimination or harassment;
- Requires all OCFS staff to attend training on LGBTQ issues;
- Provides transfer options for youth based on sexual orientation, gender identification, or gender expression;
- Establishes procedures for beginning or continuing hormone therapy in accordance with accepted standards of care;
- Requires that facilities make relevant literature and resources available to LGBTQ youth;
- Requires staff to refer to youth by their preferred name and gender pronoun; and
- Permits youth to choose their preferred undergarments and select hair and grooming styles outside of gender norms.
Especially in its sensitivity towards gender identity issues, OCFS’ new policy is among the most progressive of its kind in the country. The CA’s Juvenile Justice Coalition and other members of the working group will continue to collaborate with OCFS to monitor the policy’s implementation, and ensure that it fulfills its potential to create a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ youth.
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, 2016) 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. It is now up to the members of both parties in the NYS Legislature to do their duty to make this a reality. In spite of the Governor’s assertion that the "nation looks to NY to find a way up," we actually fall behind 48 other states, along with North Carolina, by continuing to treat children as adults in the criminal legal system. New York must Raise the Age of criminal responsibility this legislative session. Read More
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 [...]Read More
Reports & Research
What does it mean to really "treat children as children"? Read Gabrielle Prisco's New York Law Review article to find out. Read More