New poll shows mass incarceration is a Latinx issue

by Lucius Couloute, January 24, 2018

Earlier this month LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a national not-for-profit Latino civil rights organization, released findings from a new national poll of the Latinx community on their views of the criminal justice system. Whereas most survey research on criminal justice issues tend to abide by a Black-white binary, this poll brings to light the impact of mass incarceration in the lives of people often left out of the conversation.

Senior Analyst Edward D. Vargas finds that, like most Americans, the majority of Latinxs favor rehabilitation over more punitive responses to crime, such as added police or prisons. Almost 60% of Latinx respondents felt less safe in the wake of Trump’s presidency. Other findings include:

  • In the context of widespread attention to the treatment of African Americans by the police, 64% of respondents believed that Latinx people face similar treatment at the hands of the police.
  • 57% of all respondents and 70% of Afro Latinx-identified respondents believed that the police are more likely to unjustly use deadly force against Latinx people than against whites.
  • 84% of respondents believed that police officers should not stop and search people simply because of their race or ethnicity.
  • 83% of Democrats and 70% of Republican respondents support the voting rights of people who have “paid their debt to society” after being convicted of a crime.
  • 67% of respondents believe that the Department of Justice should collect better data on Latinx people in the criminal justice system.

The Latinx community is diverse, making it difficult to conclude that any one view defines their experience as a whole. But one thing is clear: mass incarceration is a Latinx issue.

Latinx people make up about 20% of the U.S. incarcerated population, they experience differential treatment at the hands of the police, face stiffer school discipline than their white peers, and are increasingly subject to harassment by ICE, making this poll both timely and informative. The majority of Latinx people want reform. As Juan Cartagena, President of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, explains in a recent piece for HuffPost, “their voices need to be heard.”

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