Despite the progress that LGBT equality has made, members of the LGBT community, as well as people living with HIV (PLWH), continue to experience injustice throughout the criminal justice system. A new report, A Roadmap for Change, examines the many ways the judicial system disadvantages these people and the many possible reforms that could help remedy these disparities.
A recent survey found that 73 percent of LGBT people and PLWH have had face-to-face contact with the police within the past five years, and many felt discriminated against in these interactions. The report notes, “The policing of gender and sexuality pervades law enforcement and the operation of courts and the penal system, often operating within the larger context of racial profiling and targeting of homeless and low-income communities, and disproportionately affecting LGBT people of color.”
Here are just a few of the report’s comprehensive approach to ending the criminalization of LGBT people and people living with HIV:
- Law enforcement should be trained not to profile people based on their identities.
- Policies that target homeless people should be lifted or fixed because of the disproportionate impact on LGBT people/PLWH.
- Existing standards established by the Prison Rape Elimination Act should be implemented to protect LGBT people.
- Condoms should never be considered as evidence of intent to engage in criminal activity (i.e. sex work).
- The justice system should ensure that prisons provide inclusive healthcare, including meeting the specific needs of transgender people and people with HIV.
- Immigration reform is vital to protecting populations that are already vulnerable to arrest and detention.
- The Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement should end the use of solitary confinement for all detainees, especially transgender detainees are often confined as such.
- Youth should not be arrested simply because they are truant or homeless, especially given the high rates of LGBT youth homelessness.
- Adoption and foster services should not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status if they receive federal funding.
- Schools should implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies that enumerate protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and include educational resources on LGBT identities and HIV.
- Laws that criminalize the transmission of HIV should be reformed to reflect modern understanding of the virus and its transmission.
- Sex offender registration should be reconsidered because of the obstacles it creates for people to find employment, housing, and education.
- Mandatory minimums should be reduced, if not eliminated, for drug offenses.
In general, the key to ending the disparities for LGBT people and people living with HIV is to reform flaws in in the criminal justice system and in immigration and education policy that impact everybody. The disproportionate impact these flaws have on LGBT reveal how, as the report notes, “legal equality has not yet translated into lived equality for LGBT people, especially poor people and people of color.”