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Juvenile Justice Project

LGBTQ Advocacy

The CA’s Juvenile Justice Project (JJP) was the first group of its kind in the country to make fair and equal treatment of LGBTQ youth in state custody a top priority. Responding to reports of abuse and harassment from youth and advocates, in 2003 the JJP-coordinated Juvenile Justice Coalition (JJC) formed a working group focused on raising awareness, developing policy proposals and advocating for change to address the harms faced by system-involved LGBTQ youth. JJC made significant inroads in its advocacy with the Office of Children and Family Service (OCFS), the state agency responsible for New York’s youth jails, and played a leading role in influencing the agency to adopt a landmark anti-discrimination policy designed to support and protect LGBTQ youth in state-operated youth justice facilities.

More recently, JJP has been given unique and broad access by OCFS to visit its facilities and speak directly to youth in custody and staff at the facilities to evaluate the safety of incarcerated LGBTQ youth, assess the effectiveness of the policy, and ensure meaningful implementation of the policy and guidelines. Known as the SAFETY Initiative, this ground breaking project will culminate in the dissemination of a public report with findings and recommendations based on data and information collected from these visits.

Meaningful reform also requires an ongoing advocacy effort to address the root causes of discrimination against LGBTQ youth and effect a broad cultural shift in the youth justice system and society at large. JJP remains a leader in efforts to protect LGBTQ young people in the youth justice system from discrimination and abuse. JJP and the JJC worked closely with the Division of Youth and Family Justice (DYFJ) to successfully advocate for and help create robust anti-discrimination guidelines to protect LGBTQ youth in the city’s detention facilities. Formally adopted by the agency in July 2011, the DYFJ guidelines builds upon the OCFS policy and the work that has been done since the policy’s passage, for example by providing additional protections for transgender youth. JJP and JJC also worked with Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) officials to review and provide substantial feedback on a new LGBTQ anti-discrimination policy and guidelines protecting young people in the city’s child welfare and foster care systems. Both sets of guidelines are among the most progressive in the country and have been circulated nationally as best practice exemplars for other jurisdictions.