In these five areas, evidence shows how queer people are disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system:
1. There is a long history of criminalization of queer people and of violent police targeting of queer spaces.
When drag queens, transgender women, and other queer folks rioted at the San Francisco Compton Cafeteria diner in 1966, it marked the boiling point of police harassment sanctioned by “female impersonation” laws, which made it illegal for cisgender men to wear women’s clothing. Some states rewrote antisodomy laws in the 1970s to target gay couples, a practice that remained legal until 2003, when the US Supreme Court struck down these laws in the Lawrence v. Texas ruling.
2. Queer youth of color are more likely to be arrested or detained in school.
Zero-tolerance policies in schools, designed to keep students safe, often fail to do so for queer students, resulting instead in arrest or exclusionary discipline when queer students attempt to defend themselves from harassment.
3. Queer youth are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system.
Although they account for only 5 to 7 percent of the youth population, queer youth account for 13 to 15 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system. More than 60 percent of these young people are black or Latinx. This trajectory of juvenile justice system involvement is rooted in discrimination at home and at school. Students who are arrested, suspended, or expelled from school are more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system.
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