Massive Latino Incarceration

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Currently, Latinos are expressing a low interaction with the police, prisons, courts and the US justice system just as African Americans. According to a recent research, “Hispanics are overrepresented in the nation’s criminal justice system, with Hispanic defendants imprisoned three times as often and detained before trial for first-time offenses almost twice as often as whites, despite being the least likely of all ethnic groups to have a criminal history” (Michigan State University, 2004).

The current justice system is apparently neither just nor fair for Latinos.

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Polls conducted recently showed that Hispanics are very concerned in joining the war against crime and achieving public safety but they understand that going harder on crime is not similar to working smarter on crime. The Hispanic race is contributing a large number of its members to prisons and corporal punishment, which is a national disaster. What the US needs is a criminal justice system that focuses on public safety while avoiding wasting resources and damaging resources.

The media plays an important role of informing the nation on pressing issues taking place. It, however, a pity that Hispanics receive negative and unbalanced news TV coverage. Less than 1% of the news coverage focuses on issues concerning Hispanics. Of the news coverage, 80% covers issues related to drugs, crime, immigration, and affirmative action, themes that Latinos play negative roles. The negative portrayal of Latinos may at some point cause the bias the justice system personnel, attorneys, judges, parole and probation personnel as well as court personnel (Pew Research Center, 2016).

The mandatory minimum laws are some of the laws that result in the massive incarceration of Hispanics in the USA. Latinos are unfavorably charged with low-level and nonviolent drug crimes. Issues at the incarceration phase include ethnic analyzing and focusing on poor, “top crime” areas influencing colored individuals. Latinos are inappropriately represented by communal assigned legal personnel that underpaid and overworked.

According to a study done on sentences passed on defendants between 1994 and 1998 whereby 71% of the defendants represented by public counsel got an incarceration sentence compared to a 54% of defendants represented by private attorneys (Pew Research Center, 2016). Compulsory minimums cause cruel punishments that are unreasonable for minor offenders and most times court fail to provide legal papers in Spanish or offer translations where required.

Latinos are further disadvantaged by laws against drug trafficking. This is referred to as “The Crime Bill or the War on Drugs”. Generally, African Americans, Whites, and Latinos share a similar car accidents rate pertaining to drunk driving but Latinos are hardly confined to alcohol caused offenses (Cole, 2011). They are often charged with drug offenses and hardly do they get a pre-trial release. When convicted, Latinos get harder sentences than other races despite most offenders lacking a criminal history. Those that need drug abuse treatment hardly get it.

A researcher commented replied to this scenario by commenting “The answer to this question is complex, involving such factors as racial profiling and policies favoring the “war on drugs”, “Get tough on crime” attitudes, and outright discrimination” (Michigan State University, 2004).  A report from the Justice Bureau indicates that whites got arrested at a rate 40% lower than Latino men in 2012. It also added that “In all, one in three persons held in federal prisons is Latino, and Latinos are four times as likely as whites to end up in prison” (Michigan University, 2004).

Immigration laws play a big role in the incarceration of Hispanic people. Within the first 100 days of President Trump’s presidency, an agenda targeting immigrants and refugees, denying people their health insurances, aggravating destruction of the environment and slashing of funds that aimed at growing the middle-income man was pursued. Several states have implemented laws that demand immigration verification so as to acquire a driving license or get a job.

The main objective of the legislation is to reduce immigration as well as to target unauthorized populations, but in the long run, it affects the migration trend of Latinos, even those that are American. There has been an increase of fifty crimes that trigger immediate deportation (Cole, 2011). These offenses include minor offenses under the state legislation. The incarceration of Latinos causes separation and immediate economic hardships, trauma, and family dissolution. Poverty may result in children dropping out of school and turning to crime so as to fend for the family.

The “Three strikes and You’re Out “law common in the state of California is a legislation that sentences offenders for repeated offenses of violent and serious crimes for twenty-five years in prison. Despite the law targeting repeated offenders, it is unjust in that the third offense can be a minor unintended error. This law usually disadvantages habitual offenders because the sentences are handed over without parole.

This put the judge at a fixed position who is supposed to consider both the aggravating and mitigating conditions and make a judgment before handing a sentence (Pew Research Center, 2016). This is because the outcome is already predetermined and the judge has to follow the law. With Hispanics being branded immigrants and drug dealers, this law is likely to punish them more than any other race.

With these legislations being in place, individuals of the Hispanic community should raise awareness amongst themselves and in the country so as to address the issue of massive incarceration. The Federal Justice System is meant to serve justice not incarcerate people of a certain ethnic race over the others. Fairness and transparency in courts should prevail for justice to prevail. What is the role of a justice system if it does not pass judgment fairly?


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Massive Latino Incarceration. (2019, Feb 03). Retrieved from