LGBTQ youth are among the most vulnerable groups in the country. They are bullied in schools, profiled by law enforcement, punished to excess by judges, and assaulted in detentions and prisons.
North Carolina trails at least 47 other states in protections for LGBTQ youth in its justice systems, even in light of recent improvements. Please reach out if you or someone you know was arrested or incarcerated in North Carolina before turning 18-years-old.
This cascade of injustices, starting often with family rejection, results in disproportionate rates of LGBTQ incarceration, and it starts young. Though estimated to be only 5-7 percent of the youth population, LGBTQ minors make up 15-20 percent of incarcerated kids.
This project investigated how and why LGBTQ minors are pushed into the criminal justice system in North Carolina, and how they are treated once there. This work, begun as my journalism master’s thesis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, culminated in a 2,700-word story published in the Indy Week.
The investigation revealed that North Carolina did not collect data on the sexuality or gender identities of the children it incarcerates, making it impossible to know the scope of imprisonment and assault on LGBTQ youth that is pervasive across the country. The state recently updated their policies, though it remains among the worst in the country for legal or policy protections for this population.
I came to this project after working in juvenile detentions, treatment programs, and adult prisons in Oregon for over three-and-a-half years. I saw the pervasive homophobia of those institutions and, as a gay man, experienced its perturbing influence on my relationship with the system.
More reporting needs to be done on this issue. Help me hold North Carolina’s police, courts, detentions and prisons to account – share this project with your friends, allies, and family. Reach out if you have a story to share.