It is well-known that our criminal justice system suffers from significant racial disparities. It is quite likely that an African-American individual will go through a stricter legal process — from arrest to probation — than a white person.
No data exists regarding Latinos in this area. This is an issue because, without this information, it is hard to understand the problem and establish policy that will have an impact on the fastest-growing minority in the United States.
Latino is not a race but an ethnicity. The difference between African-American, white Anglos and Latinos is acknowledged in the data collected by state and federal agencies. In other cases, none exists.
Case in point, records on shootings involving the police. There, the information available suggests that Latinos are less likely to be shot and killed in proportion to their population. The reality is that, in many states, if the incidents are ever reported, many victims are often reported as white and, in fewer cases, as black. That makes it impossible to learn how police shootings affect the Latino community.
The study “The Alarming Lack of Data of Latinos in the Criminal Justice System” published a few days ago by the Urban Institute shows that this shortage of information is a nationwide problem.
The large majority of states do not report on the race or ethnicity of the people who are arrested, jailed, on probation or on parole, or about what crimes they have committed. Only 15 states in the country keep records on the ethnicity of the people detained.
California ranks among the worst, as they only inform about arrests, while New York keeps such data on people who are imprisoned or on probation. Florida is also among the worst; Texas, among the best.
No one knows exactly how many Latinos are arrested every year or how many are in prison, on parole or on probation. That means that the Latino perspective is excluded from the national conversation regarding system reform.
It is necessary for all states to, at a minimum, adopt the Bureau of the Census’ categories of “white-non Hispanic” and “black Hispanic,” that this information is made public every two years, and that the individual arrested is the one who states which category he or she belongs to.
In this manner, the necessary data about a community that should not be ignored will be obtained when the time comes to collect information.