Press Release: Latino Voices Report

Contact: Mike Smith, 510-600-5542, mike@safeandjust.org

Para leer en español, haga clic aquí.

Report: Latinos Experience Disproportionate Crime, Unequal Treatment in the Criminal Justice System – and Want Change

As Largest Share of California Population, Latinos Poised to Play Leading Role in Reshaping of Criminal Justice California’s Priorities, Practices

New Survey Findings in Report Show Latino Voter Support for Less Incarceration, More Rehabilitation

June 24, 2014Californians for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit project of the Tides Center focused on improving safety and reducing justice system costs, today released a report about Latino experiences with crime, the criminal justice system and new public opinion findings on specific policies and practices. Latino Voices: The Impacts of Crime and Criminal Justice Policies on Latinos, paints a picture of “cumulative disadvantage” for Latinos that is driving a move by advocates to better align California laws and practices with both Latino needs and values – and best practices in criminal justice.

Latinos have surpassed whites to now make up the largest share of California’s population, yet they face higher levels of victimization and unequal treatment in every stage of the justice system. The report, especially its public opinion findings, outline how Latinos could be a difference maker in the state’s efforts to reshape its criminal justice approaches.

“When the fastest-growing population and voter bloc in California is so poorly served by our public safety systems, the stage is set for dramatic change,” said Lenore Anderson, Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “We need all voices heard in the current debate about our justice system so that the state can more effectively address accountability and prevention. This report underscores the critical role Latinos can and should play.”

To educate the public and policymakers on the need for smarter justice approaches, Californians for Safety and Justice is partnering with an array of Latino-based organizations, including its lead partner, the National Council of La Raza, as well as the Central American Resource Center, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas en Norteamérica (COFEM), League of United Latin American Citizens, Homeboy Industries, Homies Unidos, New Alliance for Public Safety, Presente.org and the Salvadoran American Leadership and Education Fund.

“This report and these findings are, ultimately, a call to action,” said Delia de la Vara, Vice President of the California Region for the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization. “There is a compelling opportunity for leaders and advocates to collaborate on more fair, effective justice policies — for all of us.”

Another key partner is the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California, which conducted a year-long study of existing data in California and nationwide, culminating in a series of microsites and the report. Among other findings, this research reveals that Latinos are more likely than whites to be victims of gun violence, burglaries and homicide (twice as likely in California). Less than half of California Latino victims knew about existing services that could help them recover, and those who did know often found them difficult to access.

For Latinos in the justice system, the report reveals that they are less likely to be released from jail on their own recognizance while awaiting trial, and if they were offered bail, it is set at higher amounts than for African Americans and whites with similar charges. Latinos also were more likely to be incarcerated than whites when convicted of similar property and drug crimes, as well as more likely to be reincarcerated if convicted for a repeat offense upon release.

The report finds that because of these disparities, Latinos increasingly support changes to the criminal justice system. Among the public opinion research in the report is a new survey (conducted by David Binder Research in May/June 2014) that finds that 47% of California Latino voters want officials to focus on policies that are less, not more (40%), reliant on incarceration. Eight in 10 Latinos (78%) support the state in shortening longer criminal sentences and using the savings in reduced prison costs to invest in education, health services and prevention.

Additionally, respondents believed the state should focus more on supervised probation and rehabilitation (51%), compared to those believing we should send more people to jail/prison (11%) or that the current mix is about right (32%). This echoes a 2013 survey of Latino crime victims in California that found they wanted, by a two-to-one margin, California to focus more on supervised probation and rehabilitation than more prison and jail terms.

“The strategy of mass incarceration has inflicted a disproportionate cost on Latinos, so it is no surprise that there are emerging calls for change,” said Roberto Suro, Director of the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute. “Fairness demands that Latinos should now exercise a disproportionate voice in shaping an alternative. California cannot create a new criminal justice system without Latinos’ committed support and participation.”

To access the full report, visit: www.SafeandJust.org/Latinos.

About Californians for Safety and Justice

Californians for Safety and Justice, a project of the Tides Center, is a nonprofit bringing together crime survivors, business and community leaders, policymakers, law enforcement, health professionals, educators and crime-prevention experts to replace prison and justice system waste with common sense solutions that create safe neighborhoods and save public dollars. Through collaborations, policy research and analysis, toolkits and trainings, we are working to build a justice system that improves public safety and health without draining resources from our schools, hospitals and other community needs. www.SafeandJust.org

SIGN

THE PLEDGE!

Help Californians win new safety priorities. We pledge to support smart justice strategies that increase safety and reduce costs. Join our efforts to save justice system money so we can invest in prevention, education and health. Click here to read more.