Federal Advocacy

Juvenile Justice

Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

Although LGBTQ youth are estimated to only make up 5 - 7% of the nation’s youth, 13 -15% of youth in the juvenile justice system are LGBTQ. While in the system, LGBTQ are often placed in solitary housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Frequently, they have limited or no access to appropriate mental health services. (Katayoon Majd et al., “Hidden Injustice: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in Juvenile Courts” (The Equity Project, 2009).

Youth in the system are at a significant risk of negative mental and physical health outcomes, including depression, self-harming behavior, and suicidality. Recent research shows that about 70% of youth in state and local juvenile justice systems experience at least one mental disorder and 25% experience a disorder severe enough to significantly impair their ability to function. (Kathleen R. Skowyra and Joseph J. Cocozza, Blueprint for Change: A Comprehensive Model for the Identification and Treatment of Youth with Mental Health Needs in Contact with the Juvenile Justice System National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, 2007), vii. Available at http://www.ncmhjj.com/Blueprint/pdfs/Blueprint.pdf).

The Trevor Project is committed to improving the lives of incarcerated or detained LGBTQ youth by:

  • Targeting the discriminatory practices that result in the disproportionate imprisonment of LGBTQ youth;
  • Breaking the cycle that criminalizes LGBTQ youth by ending the school-to-prison pipeline;
  • Working to eliminate policies that make it difficult to obtain housing, funding for education, and lawful employment when these youth re-enter into society.

Status: Sponsored by Representative John Lewis and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.