Voices for Justice

Voices for Justice

An Oral History Project Capturing the Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

Voices for Justice is an oral history project capturing the stories of LGBT youth who have survived the juvenile justice system. The Peter Cicchino Youth Project (PCYP) at the Urban Justice Center conducted interviews of young people who had been confined in state facilities. Here are some of the excerpts from young people sharing their experiences in their own words.

Mariah was incarcerated at Cattaraugus Residential Center, an Office of Children and Family Services (“OCFS”) facility in Limestone, New York. Staff members routinely called her names because of her gender identity and on one occasion assaulted her so severely that she has permanent damage to her hand and scars on her body. “I was slammed on to the floor, and the skin from the entire right side of my face was off,” Mariah recounts, “I had never been so physically abused and emotionally abused in my life.”

Chino was incarcerated at Lansing Residential Center. She describes the psychological effect of living in facility that did not tolerate her sexual orientation: “You couldn't be queer … or trans … or anything of those things upstate. It was all about what fit into the box, and if [you] didn't fit into the box … Either they [the facility staff members] beat you down for it [your sexual orientation] or they completely ignored it.”

The juvenile justice system is designed to be a rehabilitative environment for vulnerable young people. But while the juvenile justice system often fails to live up to this ideal, its failure is particularly pronounced with regard to LGBT youth. LGBT youth frequently leave juvenile detention more traumatized and harmed than they were when they went in. Sexual abuse and harassment, physical violence, and verbal abuse can be a daily reality for LGBT young people in juvenile detention.

The voices of these youth are not often heard. We hope you are moved and compelled by the courage of these remarkable young people.

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