Disproportionality and Disparities among Sexual Minority Youth in Custody

Abstract

Research indicates that sexual minority youth are disproportionately criminalized in the U.S. and subjected to abusive treatment while in correctional facilities. However, the scope and extent of disparities based on sexual orientation remains largely overlooked in the juvenile justice literature. This study, based on a nationally representative federal agency survey conducted in 2012 (N = 8785; 9.9% girls), reveals that 39.4% of girls and 3.2% of boys in juvenile correctional facilities identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. These youth, particularly gay and bisexual boys, report higher rates of sexual victimization compared to their heterosexual peers. Sexual minority youth, defined as both lesbian, gay, and bisexual identified youth as well as youth who identified as straight and reported some same-sex attraction, were also 2–3 times more likely than heterosexual youth to report prior episodes of detention lasting a year or more. Implications for future research and public policy are discussed.

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Authors’ Contributions

B.W. conceived of the current study, participated in its design and coordination, developed the outline and structure of the manuscript, conducted analyses, and drafted the methods, results, and discussion of the manuscript; S.J. drafted the introduction of the manuscript, co-edited the remaining of the manuscript, and participated in the interpretation of the data; I.M. led the design of the overarching study, coordinated the original analyses of the data, and participated in preparing the manuscript; A.F. participated in the design and coordination of the study and performed the statistical analyses; L.S. participated in the design of the study, participated in the interpretation of the data, and participated in preparing the manuscript; J.H. participated in the design of the study, participated in the interpretation of the data, and participated in preparing the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Wilson, B.D.M., Jordan, S.P., Meyer, I.H. et al. Disproportionality and Disparities among Sexual Minority Youth in Custody. J Youth Adolescence 46, 1547–1561 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-017-0632-5

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Keywords

  • Juvenile justice
  • Detention
  • Sexual minorities
  • Sexual violence