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Professor at Antigay University to Head Juvenile Justice Program

Professor at Antigay University to Head Juvenile Justice Program

Harp and Trump
Harp and Trump

Caren Harp is a professor from the Liberty University School of Law, which is the brainchild of many antigay and anti-transgender legal efforts.

Donald Trump has announced plans to appoint a professor from Liberty University School of Law, a bastion of the religious right, as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention within the Department of Justice.

Caren Harp has been a professor at Liberty since 2012, The Chronicle of Social Change reports. As administrator, she will oversee federal grants to states for programs addressing juvenile justice, in addition to "a juvenile mentoring account, programs to support victims of child abuse and efforts to find missing and exploited children," the publication reports. She will be tasked with overseeing an agency that has suffered from reduced funding and problems with monitoring states' compliance with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. The position does not require Senate confirmation.

LGB youth constitute a disproportionate amount of minors in the criminal justice system, according to recent findings. LGB minors make up 7-9 percent of the general population, but 20 percent of all youth in juvenile justice facilities identify as LGB. If trans youth are calculated, that number is even higher.

Harp's resume includes work as chief of the sex-crimes prosecution unit in New York City and as both a prosecutor and public defender in Arkansas. She has been director of the National Juvenile Justice Prosecution Center and program manager for the Home Improvement Fraud Against Seniors Program.

No record of anti-LGBT activism by Harp has turned up yet, but Liberty University is certainly an anti-LGBT institution. It was established by Rev. Jerry Falwell, a well-known homophobe and major figure in Christian right politics as founder of the Moral Majority. Since his death in 2007, the university has been run by his son, Jerry Falwell Jr. The younger Falwell was an early supporter of Trump's presidential bid, and Trump chose him this year to head a federal task force on Department of Education policy.

Its law school "exists to equip future leaders in law with a superior legal education in fidelity to the Christian faith expressed through the Holy Scriptures," according to the school's website. Mathew Staver, head of Liberty Counsel, a religious right legal nonprofit, was the law school's dean for eight years, leaving in 2014. Liberty Counsel has represented many anti-LGBT clients, such as Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Recently Harp has written on the use of emerging brain science in juvenile justice, saying it may not be reliable. "Misplaced reliance on nascent neuroscience and neuroimaging evidence to remove from youth and young adults the consequences of their criminal behavior invites pushback from those who favor a retributive system, and it may create some unintended and unwanted consequences for youth and young adults," she wrote in May on the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange website.

"Much of the brain science that is influencing the justice system hasn't been offered into evidence in a courtroom," she continued. "It hasn't been subjected to rigorous challenge, or its limits defined or tested. Instead, through an avalanche of media and advocacy campaigns, it has simply been accepted as fact. The problem with this is that researchers working with neuroscience and neuroimaging report that the science is still being developed, and it is not ready for policymakers or the courtroom."

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