How the Criminal Justice System Has Failed Transgender Americans

June 23, 2020

Trans flag with the words Trans Rights Are Human Rights overlayed

The LGBTQ community has had a lot to celebrate in recent years. We love love, we love celebrating love, but we can’t sugarcoat the fact that a lot of work remains to be done, especially when it comes to transgender rights.

Hate crimes are rising at an alarming rate in the US. The LGBTQ community is facing increased violence—transgender people in particular. According to a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) report, 128 transgender Americans were killed between 2013 and 2018, 80% of them women of color. There were 27 more deaths in 2019 and at least 15 more already this year.

If you’re wondering what police are doing to help, well, that’s a good question. Because, unfortunately, law enforcement and the criminal justice system are too often a part of the problem.


How Police Fail the Trans Community

According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, large numbers of trans people report facing daily harrassment, abuse, and violence (and it starts at an early age). So many trans women of color have been murdered recently that it’s being called a “crisis.”

Despite this, according to a study put out by the National Center for Transgender Equality, most trans people are reluctant to call the police. With good reason.

  • 58% report experiencing mistreatment from police officers (who knew they were trans)
  • 57% of trans people feel uncomfortable calling the police for help

It’s completely unacceptable that trans Americans risk additional abuse from the very people who are supposed to be protecting them from abuse.

Take Action Now!

Tell the Senate to pass the Equality Act!

Mistreatment Behind Bars

We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Stonewall—a riot sparked by abuse at the hands of police officers. It’s clear that Stonewall isn’t over yet. Police routinely mistreat trans victims of crimes, yes, but the problems with the system run deeper than that. Transgender people are also disproportionately harrassed, targeted, and arrested by police. And once they wind up in the criminal justice system, things only get worse.

Trans people are way overrepresented in this country’s jails and prisons. Take a look at the percentage of trans adults who have reported spending time behind bars:

  • 21% of transgender women
  • 10% of transgender men
  • 16% of all transgender (and gender nonconforming) people

Those numbers are ridiculously high, especially when you consider that only 5% of all US adults have reported ever being locked up. Oh, by the way, for Black trans people the number jumps to 47%.

Transgender people experience horrific abuse in jail and prison at the hands of both their fellow inmates and staff. They are usually housed according to their gender at birth, rather than their gender identify. They are denied medical care. They are forced into long stays in solitary confinement. There is nothing just or fair here. There’s only cruelty.


Stand Up for Trans Rights

Trans visibility is at an all-time high, and yet these persistent injustices remain—in police departments, in the courts, in detention centers, in jails and prisons, and throughout daily life.

The criminal justice system is broken. It’s failing our our transgender neighbors, friends, and family members. But we can make a difference. Stand with us and the National Center for Transgender Equality as we push for transgender rights.

Take Action Now!

Tell the Senate to pass the Equality Act!