Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

Key Readings: Disparities in Arrest Rates

Below are key readings that highlight Latino disparities in arrest rates. Discrimination faced at the arrest stage is significant because it is the first point of contact between an individual and the criminal justice system.

“Man being arrested”.

1.   “Demographic Patterns of Cumulative Arrest Prevalence by Ages 18 and 23,” by Robert Brame, Shawn Bushway, Ray Paternoster, and Michael Turner (2014) 

By age 18, an estimated 26.2 percent of Hispanic men will have been arrested at least once, compared with 21.5 percent of white and 29.6 percent of black non-Hispanic men, according to this analysis. By the time they were 23, 43.8 percent of Hispanic men had been arrested—about five percentage points higher than for white men (37.9 percent).

2.   “The Impact of Race on Policing and Arrests,” by John Donohue and Steven Levitt (2001)

Studies have found an association between the race of the police and the race of those arrested. Arrests of nonwhites increased when there was a rise in the number of white police officers. Donohue and Levitt (2001) analyzed the relationship between the racial composition of police officers in a city and arrest patterns. They found increased arrests of nonwhites to be correlated to the increases in the number of white police officers but had no effect on the number of arrests of whites. These patterns were most significant for minor offenses, suggesting the possibility of more incidents of harassment and racial profiling with cross-race policing. The researchers point to a need to gather data on the race of offenders to resolve questions of the causes behind these links. This research grouped all racial minorities into a “nonwhite” category. Thus, distinctions between black and Latinos cannot be made from this study (Donohue & Levitt, 2001).

 3.   “RaceBased Policing: A Descriptive Analysis of the Wichita Stop Study,” by Brian Withrow (2007) 

In another study, regardless of the police officer’s race, all officers were found to search Latino drivers more often than white male drivers. White officers were found to have higher search rates overall than black or Latino officers (Withrow, 2007).

 4.   “Effect of Suspect Race on Officers’ Arrest Decisions,” by Tammy Kochel, David Wilson, and Stephen Mastrofski (2011)

A more recent meta-analysis of quantitative research examining the effect of race on arrests showed that minority suspects are more likely to be arrested than white suspects (Kochel, Wilson, & Mastrofski, 2011). The meta-analysis analyzed the results of 27 independent data sets that generated 40 research papers. A drawback of the meta-analysis study was that it lumped all racial minority groups into one category and did not give specific analysis for Latinos.

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