Justice For All Is The Goal, Not The Reality
Even a cursory investigation into arrest and conviction rates and criminal sentences should be enough to demonstrate the need for criminal justice reform. Statues depicting Lady Justice, blindfolded and holding a scale, call to mind the importance of an impartial and fair process for determining guilt or innocence. That ideal does not reflect the truth experienced by so many after an arrest. A recent report from the Movement Advancement Project and the Center for American Progress demonstrates how the criminal justice system does not conform to its lofty standards when it comes to dealing with members of the LGBT community.
In some cases, laws have been written to specifically target LGBT individuals. Sodomy laws are the most obvious example of this. As with many cases involving sex crime, prosecutions for sodomy carried a vicious stigma. An accused person was often guilty in the minds of many regardless of the evidence presented. Sodomy laws were, in many cases, a direct attack on members of the LGBT community.
Problems that often contribute to criminal prosecution are also more prevalent LGBT people due to the discrimination and harassment they face in our society. Poverty levels among LGBT people, particularly transgender individuals, are much higher than in the population as a whole. When you struggle to find stable employment and housing because you are discriminated against, it increases the chances that you will eventually run afoul of law enforcement officials.
Criminal justice reform should not be limited to one group or another. Anyone caught up in the system can attest to the deficiencies that threaten our rights. That said, reformers need to take a close look at the experiences of LGBT members in crafting a new model that will serve the interests of all members of our society.