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Publication Date

Summer 2022

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies


Bryce Westlake

Subject Areas

LGBTQ studies, Social structure, Criminology


The transgender community has historically been an underserved community vulnerable to discrimination and stigmatization by society and specifically the criminal justice system (CJS). As a result of their gender-identity they are more likely to be criminalized and face mistreatment, physical or sexual assault, or disrespect when interacting with any of the three elements of the CJS: law enforcement, the courts system, or the prisons system. The purpose of this thesis was to give the transgender community a space to tell their story and describe their own experiences with the three elements of the CJS. This was achieved by conducting interviews with 10 transgender participants to better understand how their experiences navigating the CJS have impacted their lives. Based on the findings, six main themes arose associated with the participant’s experiences which included (1) Interactions with law enforcement, (2) Racialization of the court system, (3) Impacts of inadequate representation, (4) PREA’s impact on housing, (5) Environment to transition, and (6) Road to recovery and desire for change. Findings provide contributions to our understanding of transgender individuals’ interactions with the CJS and recommendations that can be implemented into the CJS to improve interactions.