The Path of LGBTQ Criminal Justice Reform is Being Charted by Illinois

Attorneys at Illinois criminal defense law firm Wolfe & Stec said they’ve seen the benefits of reform in their state, and it gives them hope for broader reforms across the nation.

Woodridge, Illinois, UNITED STATES

Woodridge, Illinois, Nov. 06, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- As federal and state lawmakers around the U.S. continue to mull over solutions to a host of problems plaguing the criminal justice system, reform advocates from the ACLU to the Center for American Progress continue to stress the importance of advancing protections for the LGBTQ community.

Attorneys from Illinois law firm Wolfe & Stec said that Illinois has a history of moving the needle on LGBTQ rights and that the state’s criminal justice reforms might be a model for both federal and other state’s laws.

“We’re proud of Illinois’s reputation as a trailblazer for the rights of the LGBTQ community,” said Natalie Stec. “There are so many obstacles facing members of this community in every stage of the criminal justice system. Many of our lawmakers have shown that they’re taking reforms seriously.”

Studies suggest that LGBTQ people are greatly overrepresented in national prison populations. This is particularly true for young people. Between 12 to 20 percent of incarcerated youths identify as LGBTQ, even though LGBTQ youth make up only 7 percent of young people nationally.

Illinois has a history of being among the first states to protect its LGBTQ population. It was the first state to repeal its sodomy laws and among the first to recognize gay marriage. In 2014, Illinois expanded its anti-bullying laws to include LGBT people.

Illinois has a nondiscrimination policy aimed at protecting LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice system and prohibits sexual orientation change efforts - otherwise known as conversion therapy - for anyone under the age of 18. Cook County also has a policy that protects the rights of LGBTQ youth in its temporary juvenile detention center, according to LGBTQ advocacy group Lamba Legal.

The attorneys said that for the progress made in Illinois, there are still many societal and institutional challenges facing LGBTQ people.

“LGBTQ people are often ostracized from their families and communities,” said Marc Wolfe. “They are more likely to struggle with poverty and discrimination when looking for employment and housing. Research suggests that LGBTQ inmates are also more likely to be victimized by other inmates once they enter our prisons.”

The Movement Advancement Project said that racial disparities present in our justice system are also manifested among LGBTQ youth populations. The organization said that 85 percent of LGBTQ youth in the juvenile system are youth of color, and that LGBTQ youth are more likely than their peers to be detained and sexually assaulted in detainment facilities.

“The problems LGBTQ inmates face nationally haven’t been eradicated here in Illinois,” Stec said. “We are making progress, and we can serve as a model for other states to follow suit. However, there is still a long road ahead.”


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