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First-ever poll on Latinos’ attitudes towards criminal justice system highlights data disparity

LatinaLista — Too often when national surveys or research focuses on ‘minority’ perspectives/experiences with the criminal justice system, Latinos are left off the list.

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Yet, Latinos are usually the second largest group after African Americans to have contact with the criminal justice system. In a first-ever poll of Latino opinion on the criminal justice system, it was found that Blacks aren’t alone in feeling unduly punished by a system supposedly serving justice in a fair way.

Commissioned by LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the survey, conducted by Latino Decisions, found that Latinos too are concerned about police violence, with more than 50 percent feeling police use deadly force unjustly against the Latino community. Fifty-seven percent feel that since Trump’s election white people are more hostile and discriminatory towards them.

Also, the Latinos polled don’t see the criminal justice system as a place where people should just be locked up and the key thrown away. The survey found Latinos fully support:

more rehabilitation, drug treatment and mental health programs over increased funding for police or prisons; less incarceration for nonviolent offenses; restoring the vote to people who have paid their debt to society – which they overwhelmingly support; fully counting Latinos separate from blacks or whites in criminal justice databases; and to a lesser extent, support for marijuana legalization.

“Latinos in America are significantly concerned about their public safety both at the hands of police and by their neighbors,” stated Juan Cartagena, President of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, in a release about the poll. “They are convinced that they will be more subject to unlawful deadly force by police compared to whites, they believe local police treat them in ways similar to how African-Americans are treated, and they disavow the use of racial profiling by law enforcement.

According to Dr. Edward Vargas, a senior analyst at Latino Decisions, “This poll also highlights the policy preferences for Afro-Latinos, a group that is widely overlooked yet greatly impacted by criminal justice and policing.”

The poll also revealed:

  • Almost three times as many Latinos (58%) would prefer funding for rehabilitation, drug and mental health programs as a way to reduce crime than funding for police departments (20%) and rehabilitation is far more preferable than increased money for prisons (6%), or deportations (12%).
  • Among the most important problems that require attention in the criminal justice system, Latinos ranked insufficient rehabilitation programs and excessive incarceration of nonviolent offenders as numbers one and two, respectively.
  • Latino victims of crime have very strong voter participation rates. 92% of them voted in the 2016 elections, second only to Latino college grads (95%). Almost a third of all Latinos reported being a victim of crime but 55% of Latinos stopped by police and 64% of Latinos arrested were victims of crime.

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