Latino Voices call for Smart Justice

New report by Californians for Safety and Justice highlights Latino experiences with crime and the criminal justice system: www.safeandjust.org/Latinos

 

By Lenore Anderson
Californians for Safety and Justice
June 24, 2014

“Cumulative disadvantage.” That’s the term we used – and troubling discovery we made – in a new report about Latino experiences with crime and the justice system.

Latino Voices: The Impact of Crime and Criminal Justice Policies on Latinos summarizes existing research and includes new survey findings that reveal how poorly our public safety policies align with Latino needs and values – and how interested Latinos are in change.

This comes at a critical juncture: Latinos are becoming a larger share of the population (having surpassed whites in California already) at the same time that state and national policymakers are looking to replace ineffective, costly prison-first approaches with solutions that actually prevent crime and create healthier communities.

That starts with acknowledging – and working to end – Latinos’ cumulative disadvantage.

Despite representing more of California’s population than whites, Latinos are dramatically overrepresented as crime victims – and in our courts, jails and prisons. Research shows that Latinos receive harsher treatment in arrests, pretrial proceedings and sentencing than whites, even when charged with the same offenses.

Because Latinos suffer unduly as victims of crime and yet often experience unequal treatment in the system, it is not surprising that surveys of Latinos reveal a desire for change.

We have surveyed Latino crime victims and Latino voters and heard a common refrain: California spends too much on prisons and incarcerates too many nonviolent people. By wide margins, Latinos support rehabilitation and probation over increased incarceration, and they – likely other voters – strongly believe we should invest more in our schools, health systems and crime prevention instead of more prisons and jails.

It is not just voters calling for change. That’s why we partnered with the National Council of La Raza (a Rosenberg Foundation grantee) and nine other Latino partner organizations to educate the public and policymakers about the report’s findings and its recommendations.

Ending the justice system’s cumulative disadvantage for Latinos will require this combined effort, and we encourage you to learn more and get involved. Please visit www.SafeandJust.org/Latinos to do both.