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Solitary Confinement of Juveniles Disproportionately Impacts LGBTQ Youth

by Jordan Dashow April 21, 2016

While we know that the deck is stacked against young people growing up as LGBTQ in America, one issue that especially targets LGBTQ youth is the use of solitary confinement.

A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundations’ Juvenile Detention Alternatives initiative found that a disproportionate number of youth in juvenile detention facilities in the United States—up to 20 percent—identify as LGBTQ.

According to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2015 report, LGB inmates are more likely to have spent time in restrictive housing, including administrative segregation or solitary confinement, than their straight counterparts. The Department of Justice also described the isolation of children as “dangerous and inconsistent with best practices.” Unfortunately, data for transgender individuals was not included due to sample size.

Additionally, a 2014 ACLU report found that solitary confinement of youth can cause physical, developmental and psychological harm, including an increased risk of suicide. Despite these harms, solitary confinement of youth still occurs throughout the United States.

A 2014 report by the UN’s Committee Against Torture specifically called on the U.S. to "prohibit any use of solitary confinement against juveniles" and the American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Bar Association have called for an end to the solitary confinement of youth. Yesterday, the Center for Children's Law and Policy, the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and the Justice Policy Institute launched a national campaign, Stop Solitary for Kids, to call for an end to this practice.

LGBTQ youth continue to face challenges, especially at school.  HRC’s groundbreaking report, Growing Up LGBT in Americafound that LGBTQ youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at school. Twenty-one percent of LGBTQ youth identified school/bullying as the most important problem facing them right now. Shockingly, 92 percent of LGBTQ youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT. The top sources are school and their peers.

Congress is debating the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, a bill that would ban federal facilities from placing youth in solitary confinement. Unfortunately, debate has stalled. In December, President Barack Obama banned federal prisons from placing youth in solitary confinement. While this is a significant step, the action only extends to federal prisons, not juvenile facilities, and can be overturned by future presidents. HRC calls on Congress to act to protect LGBTQ youth nationwide. 

Jordan Dashow
Jordan Dashow


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