Federal Action Needed on HIV Criminalization, Says New Report
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, people and people living with HIV, or PLWH, face sweeping discrimination at all stages of the criminal legal system -- including policing, adjudication, and incarceration -- according to a new report published by the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School and co-authored by the Center for American Progress, The Center for HIV Law and Policy, and Streetwise & Safe, or SAS.
The report, "A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People with HIV," is one of the first reports of its kind to offer comprehensive federal policy recommendations to address the cycles of criminalization and discriminatory treatment faced by LGBT people and PLWH.
Co-authored by Catherine Hanssens, Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, Andrea J. Ritchie, Dean Spade and Urvashi Vaid with input from more than 50 legal, advocacy, and grassroots organizations working on LGBT and criminal justice policy, the report provides an extensive outline of policy measures that federal agencies can adopt to address discriminatory and abusive policing practices, improve conditions for LGBT prisoners and immigrants in detention, decriminalize HIV, and prevent LGBT youth and adults from coming in contact with the system in the first place.
"The principles that define our nation’s character do not tolerate racial bias, nor do they tolerate bias against members of any community," said Ben Jealous, former president of the NAACP and CAP Senior Fellow, who contributed the preface for the report. "Existing research indicates that LGBTQ people and PLWH are overrepresented in all aspects of the penal system. This roadmap contains recommendations for federal policy change that would represent important steps toward preventing and addressing the impacts of the crisis of mass incarceration on LGBTQ people-a crisis that is too often ignored, even by people of good conscience."
"Justice continues to be elusive and conditional for LGBT people and PLWH due to a range of laws and policies that are used to dehumanize, victimize, and criminalize them because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status," said Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, co-author of the report and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. "Even though LGBT equality has gained momentum, it remains unevenly distributed and incomplete, so it is critical that policy makers continue the work to ensure that LGBT people and PLWH are treated fairly."
CeCe McDonald-a transgender woman who was released from prison earlier this year after serving 19 months in a men’s prison for defending herself against a racist and transphobic attack-contributed the foreword to the report. She wrote, "Police officers use many stereotypes of black trans people to dehumanize me, such as assuming that I am a sex worker." She goes on to say, "People of color and trans people are seen as ’unfit for society,’ and are therefore targeted by our justice system."