LGBTQ & Gender Justice

Partnership Launched to Eliminate Incarcerating ‘Girls,’ Gender-Expansive Youth

January 31, 2023
By Andres Magaña

Overall youth arrests and incarceration rates in Los Angeles County are down, but Black and Brown girls and gender expansive (GE) youth are not celebrating. The reason? The trend for girls and GE youth are going in the opposite direction. Girls and GE youth of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal legal system from arrests to incarceration and probation, and are being pushed out of school at alarming rates.

A number of experts have attributed the gender gap to the youth justice system’s long-standing “protective and paternalistic” approach to dealing with girls and GE youth. The system tends to detain girls and GE youth because they’re seen as needing protection. It’s a strategy that is ill-suited to the personal histories of trauma, physical violence, and poverty that lead many girls and GE youth into the youth justice system. Even when the system acknowledges these factors, there are limited options available beyond traditional arrests and incarceration.

Many girls who have surmounted incredible violence and trauma are then subjected to conditions and abuse that retraumatize and harm them, inside archaic systems not designed to meet their needs. Instead, community-based settings committed to their healing and development are historically underinvested in, despite having the trust and expertise to serve girls and GE youth through asset-based approaches.

Liberty Hill launched the Liberation Fund last month to ensure that girls and GE youth have access to programs and services targeted toward their unique needs that will prioritize their autonomy and safety.The first grants from the Liberation Fund will go toward leaders, organizers, advocates, and service providers who will center the voices of youth as they design a blueprint to help girls and GE youth fully secure their rights to youth development, the arts, employment, community safety, housing, education, health and wellness.

Through a coordinated, collaborative, and community-led strategy, we can not only end the arrest and incarceration of girls and GE youth in Los Angeles County, but also sustain an end to this practice by starving the pathways that lead Black, Indigenous, and other girls and GE youth of color into these harmful systems in the first place.

Stay tuned for more information about this work in 2023!