The Alarming Lack of Data on Latinos in the Criminal Justice System
Urban Institute
Dec 15, 2016

No one knows exactly how many Latinos are arrested each year or how many are in prison, on probation, or on parole.

A survey of state criminal justice data showed that 40 states reported race (e.g., “white,” “black,” “other”) in their arrest records, but only 15 states reported ethnicity. Although Latinos are just one of many ethnic groups in the United States, the population is projected to be 28.6 percent Latino by 2060, and Latinos are the group most affected when states ignore ethnicity.

Evidence shows that our criminal justice system has significant racial disparities. But without comprehensive data, policymakers, community members, and advocates cannot know how mass incarceration affects Latinos specifically and ethnic disparities cannot be accurately tracked.A state’s failure to collect and report ethnicity data affects not only Latinos but the entire criminal justice system. States that only count people as “black” or “white” likely label most of their Latino prison population “white,” artificially inflating the number of “white” people in prison and masking the white/black disparity in the criminal justice system.

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