Thursday, May 12, 2011

New Organizing Project Fights the Criminalization of LGBTQ Youth in New Orleans

From our friends at Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana and BreakOUT:
JJPL is excited to announce the launch of BreakOUT!, a new project that expands JJPL's LGBTQ Youth Project to keep LGBTQ youth voices in New Orleans at the center of juvenile and criminal justice reform efforts.

As many of you may know, JJPL has enjoyed an active LGBTQ Youth Project for several years, advocating on behalf of the numerous LGBTQ youth in secure care facilities across the state of Louisiana. To date, JJPL has trained juvenile justice stakeholders, including detention centers from all around the state, on the needs and issues faced by LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice system, advocated for LGBTQ-specific policies in detention centers and in the Office of Juvenile Justice, and enjoyed plenty of media attention, including a special PBS segment titled Juvenile InJustice.

As the project gained more momentum over the past year, including seeing the release of the report Locked Up & Out: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in Louisiana's Juvenile Justice System, JJPL quickly realized the need for greater resources for LGBTQ youth, both inside and outside the system.

Although incarcerated-LGBTQ youth voices have always been at the center of our work, JJPL is now proud to announce a project to organize LGBTQ youth in New Orleans around the criminalization of LGBTQ youth, including targeting from the police and disproportionate incarceration rates, both in adult and juvenile jails. This project, called BreakOUT! will conduct leadership development with youth who have had direct experiences with the criminal and juvenile justice systems in New Orleans to engage them on existing reform efforts in the city and develop campaigns to affect concrete policy changes to reduce the number of LGBTQ youth in the system. As a result of this work, JJPL is also proud to announce the passage of the first policy in Louisiana on the treatment of LGBTQ youth in detention at the Youth Study Center in New Orleans.

In fact, youth from BreakOUT! have already met with the Department of Justice (DOJ) numerous times about their experiences with the New Orleans Police Department and provided recommendations for reforms they would like to see implemented in the police department. Not long after BreakOUT! and partner organizations hosted a listening forum at Women with A Vision and met several times with the DOJ, the DOJ issued their investigative report of the NOPD, citing harassment and discrimination against the LGBTQ community, in particular, African American transgender women, as one of the most pressing issues in need of immediate attention and reform.

In order to help push these efforts forward and build the power of LGBTQ youth in New Orleans, BreakOUT! has opened a LGBTQ-youth space for further meetings and events.

Please join us at BreakOUT!'s Coming Out Party on Tuesday, May 17th from 6 pm to 9 pm at its new space located at 1001 S. Broad Street, New Orleans, LA 70125 (under the Broad St. bridge in the Art Egg Studio). Use the call box to dial suite 217 to be admitted. The housewarming party will also be an opportunity to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

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