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Report Reveals Pervasive Abuse and Discrimination Against LGBTQ+ Community and People Living with HIV in the Criminal Legal System

— July 28, 2023

Protected & Served? 2022, led by Lambda Legal and Black and Pink National, surveyed more than 2,500 community members, including LGBTQ+ Latinx people, about their experiences with the criminal legal system.  

(NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Lambda Legal, in partnership with Black and Pink National, published their Protected & Served? 2022 report in Spanish. The report reveals the alarming rates of misconduct, abuse, and discrimination LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV experience in the criminal legal system

The report – published in English in April this year – consists of quantitative data and personal stories shared by more than 2,500 community members about their experiences with the criminal legal system including police and other law enforcement, courts, prisons, jails, schools, and other government agencies. More than 15% of participants self-identified as Latina/o or Hispanic (alone or in combination with any other race or ethnicity) and 11.2% were biracial or multiracial. Forty-three percent of all participants were people of color.

The report provides an unprecedented glimpse into the widespread harm caused to LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV in these institutions. Regarding Latinx participants, Protected & Served? 2022 revealed:

  • Hate Incidents: More than half (52%) of Latinx and 68% of multiracial participants reported having experienced a hate incident in the past five years.
  • Relationship with police: Almost a third of Latinx participants (29.1%) did not trust local police authorities at all, and 31.3% reported only “trust[ing] a little bit”, meaning around 60% have either no or minimal trust in local police.
  • Immigration status: Of those who had face-to-face contact with police, 26.1% of Latinx participants said police asked for proof of their immigration status. That was also the case for over half (56.6%) of Black participants. People of color were more likely than white participants to be asked for proof of their immigration status (40.8% vs. 11.4%).
  • Police searches and sex work: More than 21% of Latinx participants who had face-to-face contact with police reported that they were stopped or contacted by the police under suspicion of being engaged in sex work.
  • Crime: A majority (59%) of Latinx participants reported having experienced certain crimes, such as property crime, physical assault, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault.
  • Transgender identity: For transgender Latinx participants that had been in court, 34.5% reported having their transgender status inappropriately revealed in court.

“Everyone who interacts with the criminal legal system, including LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV, must be treated fairly and have legal rights that must be protected,” said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney and Protected & Served? Project Manager, Richard Saenz. “Discrimination and abuse run rampant in the criminal legal system and those problems are compounded when people hold multiple marginalized identities, such as being both queer and a person of color, but they become further compounded when there is also a language barrier,” added Saenz. “So it was important that the Protected & Served? survey and report be accessible to our community members who speak Spanish and the advocates that fight for them.”

“The Protected & Served? report is a critical tool for understanding the pervasive harms and injustices faced by incarcerated LGBTQ+ people.” Black and Pink National Executive Director, Dr. Tatyana Moaton. “We can shift the narrative and demand systemic change by amplifying the voices and experiences of those directly impacted. Our collective responsibility is to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their incarceration status or identity, are protected and served with dignity and humanity.”

The findings and recommendations in Protected & Served? 2022, will inform and support new research, advocacy, litigation, and policy efforts to address and stop the discrimination and abuse experienced by LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV in the criminal legal system and to increase accountability throughout these institutions.

The report lays out a series of recommendations for individuals, advocates and policymakers, and those working in the criminal legal system to help address these issues, including: supporting trans, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary-led movements; supporting court reform efforts; decriminalizing sex work and HIV as LGBTQ+ issues; eliminating barriers to legal recourse for people in detention; working to keep LGBTQ+ young people safe in schools; and, banning profiling and other discriminatory law enforcement practices.

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This is the second version of Protected and Served?. The first, published in 2012, has been an important resource for litigators, advocacy groups, scholars, journalists, and government entities, including the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In 2022, we expanded the survey to include questions about the experiences of community members who are often ignored or made invisible, including detained people, young people, sex workers, and immigrants. The community survey asked questions about trust in institutions, experiences with crime, reporting of crime, hate incidents, intimate partner violence, and experiences in courts, detention, government systems focused on youth such as child protective services, and broader law enforcement.

Strength in Numbers Consulting Group, an LGBTQ+ led research, evaluation, and philanthropic strategy firm, facilitated the survey and co-authored the report.

We gratefully acknowledge the generous underwriting support of the Leonard-Litz LGBTQ+ Foundation for making this project possible.

To find these press release digitally, visit this link:

To read the report, please visit

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