A new study revealed that Latinos in the criminal justice system — from the time of arrest, through incarceration, and while they are on parole or probation — are often classified as white on records. This misidentification shortchanges the largest minority population in the United States when it comes to developing interventions aimed at reducing recidivism in this population.
The results were published in a report by the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center and showed that most of the nation’s most diverse states underestimate Latinos in the criminal justice system, which makes it appear that the variation between white and black offenders is more narrow than it is.
“Leaving Latinos out when documenting the consequences of the American criminal justice system means our data tells an incomplete story,” Ryan King of the Urban Institute stated. “As a result… their voices are absent from the conversation when policy reforms are developed.”
The project, which was conducted in collaboration with advocacy groups the Public Welfare Foundation and Latino Justice, collected demographic data in the 50 states and the District of Columbia on individuals who have been implicated in the criminal justice system. Although many states, such as Alaska, Texas, Oregon, and Oklahoma, collect publicly accessible data on how many Latinos enter the system, many others produce little to no information on their sites.
According to the study, only Alaska provides available information on the number of Latinos apprehended, in prison, and on probation or parole. Additionally, the state also breaks down race and ethnicity for each offense class. Texas, Idaho, Oregon and Oklahoma have numbers for Latinos who have been arrested, jailed, and placed on probation or parole.
Thirteen states, which include Maryland, Florida, Louisiana, and New Mexico, do not provide numbers for Latinos in their criminal justice systems.
Juan Cartagena, who managed Latino Justice, said the underestimate means that the needs of particular ethnic groups are not sufficiently addressed.
“This affects how we look at programs to help with re-entry. And that impacts recidivism,” Cartagena stated. “And what about sentencing disparities — who gets prison and who gets probation? We need to get a good handle on this.”