Dearth of Data Hampers Grasp of Latinos and Criminal Justice

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Immigration has been the signature issue of political campaigns that want to appeal to Latinos, a group that has grown to encompass 17 percent of the population. But a growing number of Latinos are also becoming concerned about criminal justice reform, as more join the call for systemic changes at the federal and state levels, reports The Atlantic. Latinos are overrepresented both among victims of violence and among those behind bars. Latinos under 30 are almost three times as likely to be homicide victims as whites the same age, according to the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute at USC. They are also more likely to be threatened or attacked with a gun. And when Latinos report crimes, the report is less likely to lead to an arrest than the same crimes do when the victims are white.

Yet a great deal of data that would help policymakers and advocates understand Latinos’ relationship to law enforcement has yet to be collected; there is much more data about whites and blacks’ encounters with the criminal justice system. “Unfortunately, we do not have a lot of information on Hispanics in the criminal justice system, in general, whether it’s their offending, whether it’s their perceptions of the system,” said Alex Piquero, a criminologist at the University of Texas, Dallas. “That’s primarily because of the lack of data collection that has occurred in this country for over a hundred years.”

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