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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | September 11, 2007

Crisis Of Abuse In Juvenile Justice System Addressed In EQCA-Sponsored Bill

Assembly Approves Migden Measure, Calling for Better Protections for all Youth in California's Juvenile Justice Facilities

(Sacramento, CA, September 11, 2007) — The state Assembly on Monday approved critical safeguards to protect youth from abuse and mistreatment in California's Department of Juvenile Justice facilities.

SB 518, the Juvenile Justice Safety and Protection Act, creates a Youth Bill of Rights to protect all young people, including youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), from abuse and discrimination in the state's justice system. Authored by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, and sponsored by Equality California, the measure passed the Assembly with a 46-27 vote. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) helped draft the bill and was a key supporter.

The bill will return to the Senate for a routine concurrence vote before going to the governor for final consideration.

"It is shocking that homophobia in our society results in so many LGBT youth being kicked out of their homes and dropping out of school," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "As a result, youth who identify as LGBT are disproportionately at-risk of entering the juvenile justice system, where they report being threatened, harassed and subject to isolation by peers and staff members," Kors said. "All youth need and deserve adequate protections and safeguards when under the supervision of the state's juvenile justice system. We have an obligation to protect and support LGBT youth in public facilities."

Of the estimated 1.6 million homeless youth in the U.S., between 20 and 40 percent identify as LGBT, according to a 2006 report issued by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and the National Coalition for the Homeless. The Task Force also reported that 26 percent of LGBT teens who come out to their parents or guardians are kicked out of their family's home.

In addition to informing youth of their rights, SB 518 would require the Ombudsperson of the Department of Juvenile Justice to investigate complaints and provide a toll-free hotline youth can call if they feel their rights have been violated.

"This important lifeline will help ensure that LGBT youth have a means to report harassment and have it addressed," Kors said.

SB 518 is similar to a bill of rights code established within California's foster care system. It would prohibit bias based on actual or perceived race or ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical disability or HIV status. The bill would require the Department of Juvenile Justice to distribute the youth bill of rights to all young people in custody during their orientation and post the document where youth can see it.

"I applaud my colleagues in the Legislature for recognizing that we must create and strengthen systems to make sure youth are protected from the horrors of physical and emotional abuse," said Sen. Migden. "Discrimination and harassment should never be tolerated, and SB 518 will help ensure that all California youth have a positive experience while in the juvenile justice system."

"For many years California's juvenile justice system has been violating the constitutional rights of young people in it's custody and it has failed to protect LGBT youth from violence and mistreatment" said NCLR Youth Project Director Jody Marksamer, Esq. "SB 518 will require the Department of Juvenile Justice to take a step in the right direction and create a culture where youth in California facilities are treated with the dignity and respect that all people deserve and that is required by the Constitution."

SB 518 passed the Senate in June with a 22-12 vote.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Equality California Founded in 1998, Equality California celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2008, commemorating a decade of building a state of equality in California. EQCA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians.

media contacts:


Erik Olvera
Director of Communications
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x324

Bethany Woolman
Communications Associate
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x305

Jody Marksamer, Esq.
Youth Project Director
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x308

Equality California Logo

Ali Bay
Communications Manager
Equality California


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