The new magazine, Public Intellectual, has dedicated its inaugural issue to matters of policing and surveillance, and is well worth taking a look at. One piece in particular that might be of interest to Informant readers is by Angela Irvine, who helped run an investigation into experiences of LGBT youth in the criminal justice system for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Perhaps the most shocking piece of her piece, which draws on a survey of 2,200 youth nationwide, comes near the middle:
Michael, a thirteen-year-old bisexual boy in Minneapolis, was taken from his parents at a young age and placed in a foster home. He ran away from foster care and was briefly homeless. At school, he was being bullied because of his sexual orientation, and recently, he was detained for having sex with another boy in his group home.
Like transgender youths, boys and girls caught having consensual sex with kids of the same gender are considered difficult to place in foster and group homes. Probation staff and the courts don’t usually want to hold boys like Michael in detention, yet feel that they don’t have a choice unless the child has a decent place to go.
But the system wouldn’t have faced this dilemma in the first place if Michael hadn’t been arrested for consensual sex. Straight kids usually aren’t arrested for having sex, but if they are, a number of group homes would be available to take them in. Sexual orientation lies at the heart of this institutional conundrum and leads to unnecessarily long detention periods.
It’s a little-understood, yet widely accepted fact of the juvenile justice system just how much discretion individuals in the system have over who does and doesn’t get placed in detention. We talked about this phenomenon in our recent examination of Santa Cruz County’s complete turn-around in how they deal with juvenile offenders. In Santa Cruz, probation officers noticed that they were detaining a lot of kids for what they decided were the wrong reasons: administrative reasons, like keeping them overnight so that they could properly interview the child; practical reasons, like it was hard to get ahold of their parents or there wasn’t a Spanish-speaking staff member on-hand who could communicate with parents. The idea that kids who should be in the foster system are ending up in detention because the system doesn’t know how to handle their sexual orientation is another such dilemma–one that’s rarely discussed.
Other pieces in the Public Intellectual’s inaugural issue include an examination of the policing technique called “kettlling” and a hashing out of the real connection between the economy and crime levels.