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Settlement
reached over treatment of gay youth at correctional facility

Settlement
reached over treatment of gay youth at correctional facility

A first-of-its-kind settlement to specifically address the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in juvenile facilities was reached on Thursday between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. The $625,000 settlement ends an ACLU federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of three young people who said they faced antigay and antitransgender abuse and harassment at the facility by staff and their peers.

"What has happened here in Hawaii should put juvenile systems nationwide on notice," said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. "If other states don't take decisive action to stop antigay and antitransgender abuse and harassment, then they can expect to have to answer for it in court as well."

Representing a 17-year-old transgender girl, an 18-year-old girl who identifies as gay, and an 18-year-old boy perceived to be gay, the ACLU sued Hawaii's correctional officials last September, claiming the youths had been singled out for mistreatment by staff and harassed by other facility residents based on sexual orientation and gender identity and that the facility failed to adequately protect them.

In February a federal judge agreed with the ACLU that conditions at the Hawaii facility were dangerous, that harassment was pervasive, and that the facility was "in a state of chaos." The court found "a relentless campaign of harassment...that included threats of violence, physical and sexual assault, imposed social isolation, and near constant use of homophobic slurs." Issuing a preliminary injunction to put an immediate halt to the culture of abuse at the facility, the court blasted corrections officials for allowing such incidents to take place.

In the settlement, the state of Hawaii agreed to help the correctional facility craft new policies and procedures that will help protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from harm and create a functioning grievance system for wards who need to report abuse. (The Advocate)

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