LATINOS & THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

Recommended Topics for Further Research

“A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent arresting a suspect”.

Disparities by Latino Ethnicity in Los Angeles/California

Racial disparities in the criminal justice system have been a major topic of research in both Los Angeles and nationally in the last two decades. Unfortunately, in many cases the research and conceivably the underlying data are not broken down by ethnicity. Where data have been collected by race and ethnicity, the challenge is in analyzing the data and reporting findings that fully reflect the population’s diversity. Where Latino respondents have not been identified at the time of data collection, it is possible to reclassify the data by using surnames to identify Latinos, but this is a limited and often flawed methodology. Certainly it does not substitute for robust collection and reporting of demographic variables, as is the case with many other kinds of officially reported data. Areas of the criminal justice system that have been identified for this type of analysis are:

Pretrial Detainment

One study found that Hispanic defendants were more likely to be detained pre-trial than white and black defendants, particularly for drug offenses. Further research studies with access to court records in California could conduct a study similar to the one conducted by Demuth (2003) and examine disparities between Latinos and other offenders as well as analyze the effects of immigration detainers on pretrial detainment for Latinos.

Community Reintegration

Although research exists on how Latino youth and black offenders are reintegrated into the community, there remains a lack of research documenting how Latino adults are reintegrated.

Sentencing

There is a huge void in sentencing data for Latinos in California. Requesting sentencing data from California courts would make it possible to conduct a study similar to the one conducted by Demuth and Steffensmeier (2004), comparing sentences between Latinos and non-Latinos. Factoring in the effect of immigration policy on the effects of sentencing lengths would also be crucial.

Arrest Rates vs. Convictions

California provides data on arrest rates by type of crime and racial/ethnic group, but data are lacking on conviction rates by types of crime and racial/ethnic group. There is a need to fill in the gaps in this data. If the data are made available, future studies could compare the number of Latinos convicted for minor, nonviolent offenses with their black and white counterparts. It would also be interesting to compare the number of first-time offenders between racial/ethnic groups. This could be married to a study on realignment policy, since the goal of realignment is to transfer low-level offenders to county jails.

 



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