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.
When young people jump a subway turnstile because they don’t have a few dollars in their pocket, they may face a fine that’s many times more. When they can’t pay the fine, they may end up with a bench warrant and an arrest record. When they look for a job, their record makes it harder.
“That’s a way of turning kids into criminals,” Dank said.
The report, based on in-depth interviews, captures the criminal justice experiences of 283 young people, ages 15 to 26, who identify as LGBTQ, young men who have sex with men or young women who have sex with women. Almost all the participants identified as people of color.
In New York, all 16- and 17-year-olds are considered adults.
More than 70 percent of those interviewed said they had been arrested at least once, often for misdemeanors. Two-thirds said they had been stopped, questioned and frisked at some point in their life.
A third of the participants also reported they felt unsafe while in custody, from arrest through pre-arraignment detention. Some reported violence or abuse from the police, according to the report.
The report is one in a series that looks at the experiences of youth who engage in sex work and identify as LGBTQ, YMSM (young men who have sex with men) and YWSW (young women who have sex with women). An earlier report details why those groups of youth have survival sex and makes recommendations about how to meet their needs.
Judy Yu, director of the juvenile justice project at the Correctional Association of New York, said the research adds to a growing body of knowledge about the risks and challenges for LGBTQ youth in the criminal justice system.
“It brings into the discussion the fact that for LGBTQ youth of color, the reasons that they may be engaging in survival sex are the same funnels into the system,” she said.
Click here to read more of this article and to read the full report bu the Urban Institute.
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