What's at Stake
The ACLU of Hawai’i and the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Rights Project represented three young people — a 17-year-old male-to-female transgender girl, an 18-year-old lesbian, and an 18-year-old boy perceived to be gay — in a federal civil rights lawsuit against Hawai’i Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF), the state’s juvenile correctional facility. The plaintiffs said they were abused and harassed because of their sexual orientation and gender identity while at HYCF. The ACLU asked for a preliminary injunction to force HYCF to establish policies, procedures, and training to prevent further abuse of LGBT wards.
Although HYCF is supposed to exist to rehabilitate nonviolent offenders who are sent to the facility for offenses like running away from home, drug use, or truancy, the ACLU alleged that officials at the Hawai’i Department of Human Services (DHS) and HYCF ignored and sometimes even participated in an atmosphere of harassment, humiliation, and fear for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in the facility, despite repeated pleas by doctors and psychologists who were concerned about the wards’ safety and well-being.
The ACLU of Hawai’i has long been involved in efforts to improve conditions at HYCF. In 2003, the affiliate issued a 34-page report detailing systemic problems at the facility. A year later, the U.S. Department of Justice also launched an investigation into conditions, policies, and practices at HYCF, and on August 4, 2005, released its findings. Like the ACLU, the Department of Justice found widespread violations of the Constitutional rights of juveniles in the facility.
Status: VICTORY! The judge issued a preliminary injunction requiring HYCF to stop harassment of LGBT wards and HYCF settled the case, agreeing to many reforms and a new anti-harassment policy.