Researchers at Florida International University (FIU) Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, in partnership with The Ohio State University (OSU), received $503,583 from the National Institute of Justice-Department of Criminal Justice to conduct a two-year study designed to improve public safety for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and gender nonconforming individuals (LGBTQI/GNC) in Miami.
The core research team includes Dr. Besiki Kutateladze, assistant professor in the department of criminal justice at FIU; Dr. Mark Williams, professor in the department of health policy and management at FIU Stempel College; and, Dr. Ryan D. King, professor and associate director of Criminal Justice Research Center at OSU. Dr. Benjamin Amick III, chair and professor in the department of health policy and management at FIU Stempel College, will serve as an advisor on public health and development.
“One of the assumptions that has been made since the advent of marriage equality is that violence against LGBTQI/GNC has decreased. The opposite is true; violence against LGBTQI/GNC has actually increased in the last few years,” said Dr. Williams. “We suspect crime often goes unreported because it occurs within a family setting or because feelings of futility on the part of victims.”
The study will assess experiences of oppression, culprit characteristics and incentives, crime reports and case processing variations, while looking at challenges and opportunities for reform within the criminal justice system. Researchers will utilize victim interviews, administrative records, case file reviews and practitioner interviews to conduct this study in Miami in collaboration with the Miami-Dade Police Department and Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. The agencies will allow the research team to review administrative data from every police and prosecutorial file processed as a hate crime against the LGBTQI/GNC community.
Hate crime prosecution is a policy instrument passed by state legislatures to adjudicate crime directed at a specific minority group; however, there are few hate crime prosecutions towards the LGBTQI/GNC community in the local area. Given that Greater Miami is relatively progressive, many believe that hate crimes against LGBTQI/GNC do not occur. The research will take a closer look at the validity of this rationale.
In order to assess reality over assumption, 400 LGBTQI/GNC who have been victims of hate crimes will participate in interviews.
The prevalence and reasons for hate crimes committed against LGBTQI/GNC are vague due to a lack of research on this vulnerable population.
“We are proud to join forces with talent from outside of FIU, and with our local law enforcement, to search for solutions for our community. We see this work as advocating for better policy that accurately reflects the real dangers so many face on a daily basis,” said Dr. Tomás R. Guilarte, dean of FIU Stempel College.
The findings of this study will be beneficial to police and prosecutors in the development of more effective internal policies and practices for identifying and investigating hate crimes, processing them accordingly and assisting the victims. This increased awareness should bolster confidence in the justice system, and have significant justice and public safety implications.
For more than two decades, Dr. Williams has conducted research in the areas of behavioral epidemiology, disease prevention and health promotion in underserved and minority populations, including LGBTQI/GNC. He has led more than 30 studies funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Department of Alcohol and Drug Abuse.