Decriminalize Queer Youth

BeyondBullyingv2

Summer is just around the corner and youth across the country are looking forward to 3 months of freedom. Unfortunately, not all youth will be celebrating their freedom this summer. For a disproportionate number of gay and transgender youth who have been pipelined into the juvenile justice system, no such freedom is coming.  That’s why we are putting out a call in support of the 2014 Global Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth.

In recent years, schools have been increasingly relying on law enforcement to manage school discipline issues, creating a criminalizing link between the school and juvenile justice systems known as the school-to-prison pipeline. Gay, transgender, and gender nonconforming youth are disproportionately funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline and are over-represented in the juvenile justice system. According to the FIRE Initiative at the Center for American Progress, approximately 300,000 gay and transgender youth are arrested and/or detained each year, of which more than 60 percent are black or Latino.  So while gay and transgender youth represent just 5-7% of the nation’s overall youth population, they comprise 13-15% of those currently in the juvenile justice system and 40% of the homeless youth population. A shocking 39% of homeless gay and transgender youth report being involved in the juvenile justice system at some level according to the Fire Initiative.

Preston Mitchum and Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, in their articleBeyond Bullying, report that “as with the racial disparities in school suspensions and expulsions, these higher rates of punishment do not correlate to higher rates of misbehavior among gay and transgender youth. What the research suggests is that gay and transgender youth actually face harsher sanctions by school administrators even when committing similar offenses.”

Take, for instance, the local case of Jewlyes Gutierrez, a 16-year-old transgender student at Hercules High School in the SF Bay Area, who faced battery charges after standing up to her bullies. Gone are the days of a phone call to the parents and in-school efforts to remedy these situations. The D.A. initially reported he had no choice but to press charges, despite the fact that a precedent for this had not been set until it was a transgender teen of color in question. As reported inThe Daily News, a huge force of community resistance swelled and the outcry led to the charges against Jewlyes being dropped after completion of a conflict resolution process. Unfortunately, this is not the case for so many other targeted youth.

As a chapter ofBlack & Pink, a national organization focused on building support and solidarity with LGBTQ prisoners, we are specifically interested in looking closely at the ways that marginalized bodies and lifestyles are stigmatized, surveilled and policed as well as how to resist, respond and build resilience within our communities. That’s why we’re participating in second annual Global Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth, an event developed by the grassroots group,Save The Kids from Incarceration. Our commitment is to host a workshop for our community on Thursday, May 29th in San Francisco entitled, “Caging Deviance: An Introduction to the PIC and Queer Resistance.” Our goal is to support participants in exploring the underlying framework of the prison industrial complex while giving a historical analysis of the policing and incarceration of LGBTQ people.

Criminalization and mass incarceration of LGBT youth, youth in poverty and youth of color is not the solution; another world is possible. Please support the future of our youth by joining the Global Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth – discuss this issue with family and friends, bring it up in your classrooms, support queer and POC youth organizations, uproot and replace the oppressive stereotypes we have been taught about who does and doesn’t deserve to be criminalized and demand an end to the school-to-prison pipeline.

 

Sources:

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2014/02/27/83604/infographic-schools-are-failing-lgbt-youth-and-funneling-them-into-prison/
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/report/2014/02/27/84179/beyond-bullying/
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/charges-dropped-transgender-california-teen-bullied-report-article-1.1783780
http://savethekidsgroup.org/
http://www.blackandpink.org/

 

If you cross-post, please include: Flying Over Walls is a Queer/Trans Prisoner Solidarity Project in the SF Bay Area, currently working in collaboration with Black & Pink. To find out more about our group, which hosts prisoner letterwriting nights, political education workshops and study groups, focused on the damaging effects of criminalization as it relates to queer/trans experiences and through a queer/trans lens, look us up at https://flyingoverwalls.wordpress.com

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