In a newly released 84 page report supported by over 200 sources, the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School says LGBT people and people living with HIV, or PLWH, “face sweeping discrimination at all stages of the criminal legal system.”
The report, co-authored by the Center for American Progress (CAP), the Center for HIV Law and Policy, and Streetwise & Safe, is called “A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People with HIV.” With input from more than 50 organizations working on LGBT and criminal justice policy, the report “provides an extensive outline of policy measures that federal agencies can adopt to address discriminatory and abusive policing practices, improve conditions for LGBT prisoners and immigrants in detention, decriminalize HIV, and prevent LGBT youth and adults from coming in contact with the system in the first place.”
“The principles that define our nation’s character do not tolerate racial bias, nor do they tolerate bias against members of any community,” said Ben Jealous, former president of the NAACP and CAP senior fellow, who contributed to the preface for the report.
“Existing research indicates that LGBTQ people and PLWH are overrepresented in all aspects of the penal system. This roadmap contains recommendations for federal policy change that would represent important steps toward preventing and addressing the impacts of the crisis of mass incarceration [of] LGBTQ people — a crisis that is too often ignored, even by people of good conscience.”
According to the report, 73 percent of all LGBT people and PLWH recently surveyed have had face-to-face contact with police during the past five years. For LGBT people of color, more than one-third of these interactions featured some form of harassment or abuse. Five percent of the respondents also reported having spent time in jail or prison, a higher rate than that of the nearly three percent of the total U.S. adult population who are under some form of correctional supervision — jail, prison, probation or parole — at any point in time.
The report, which took 18 months to produce, consists of six main sections—Policing and Law Enforcement, Prisons, Immigration, Criminalization of Youth, Criminalization of HIV, and Drivers of Incarceration. The recommendations in each section are very specific, drawing from historical context and providing solid solutions to existing issues like this example from the Drivers of Incarceration section:
[Health and Human Services] should develop anti-LGBT discrimination guidelines for substance use treatment programs and ensure that no one is denied access to treatment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that residential substance use programs receiving federal funds are respecting the gender identities of their participants.
“Legal equality has not translated into lived equality for LGBT people, especially poor people and people of color,” said Dean Spade, co-author and visiting professor at Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law. “There is still little justice for LGBT people ... who are driven into the criminal legal system by pervasive poverty and systemic discrimination in the distribution of life chances.”
For more information, check out the full report online at http://bit.ly/1ojBOGp.