How Latino Criminality and Victimization Compares to African American and White Races
Some studies have found that racial/ethnic minorities are sentenced more harshly than whites even after legally relevant factors, such as offense seriousness and prior criminal history, are taken into consideration. Conversely, a few studies have reached the opposite conclusion–racial minorities are treated more leniently than whites, while still other research has found no differences in sentencing outcomes by race/ethnicity of the defendant.
Unlike previous demographic shifts, this increase has been largely fueled by birthrate which has significant impact on the social context in which new generations of Hispanic Americans are socialized. One area in particular is that of crime and victimization among these “new” Hispanic populations and key to understanding these experiences may be rooted in the acculturation process. The decline of Hispanic familialism brought about by generational progression may also theoretically impact parenting and the development of self-control. Changes in either have significant implications for crime and victimization. If intergenerational distance or discord exists within families or neighborhoods, parenting practices, parent-child relationships, and the development of self-control may prove challenging. Problems with any of these may increase the likelihood of crime and victimization and thus may assist in disentangling the complex relationship between acculturation and crime. The issue of immigration and crime at the macro-level has largely been studied apart from the etiology of offending within immigrant populations. This body of research can, however, inform our understanding of the ways in which macro-level factors such as neighborhood characteristics, particularly immigrant concentration, may have bearing on individual experiences.
Being informed about racial disparities reduces punitiveness about some crimes: in one study, whites became less supportive of the disparity in crack-cocaine federal sentencing when presented with information about this policy’s uneven racial impact (Peffley & Hurwitz (2010). But support for the death penalty has been less responsive to some messages about racial disparities. For example, one study found that white respondents who were first told that “blacks are about 12% of the U.S. population, but they are almost half (43%) of those currently on death row” did not report lower rates of support for the death penalty in murder cases compared with those who were not given this prompt. Another study found a “backlash effect,” with white Americans who were first told, “Some people say that the death penalty is unfair because most of the people who are executed are African Americans” being more likely to support the death penalty for murder convictions than those who did not receive this message. Similarly, white Californians who were encouraged to overestimate the proportion of blacks in the state’s prisons were less likely to support restricting the state’s “three strikes” law than those who were not, just as white residents of New York City who were led to overestimate the proportion of incarcerated blacks were less supportive of ending the stop-and-frisk policy. (Clifford, S. & Goldstein, J., 2014) Resources provided by the NCSC and the other organizations mentioned above can help to calibrate interventions to avoid flaring automatic biases.
Clifford, S. & Goldstein, J. (2014). Brooklyn Prosecutor Limits When He’ll Target Marijuana. The New York Times; The New York Times Editorial Board (2014). How Race Skews Prosecutions.
Peffley & Hurwitz (2010), Persuasion and Resistance: Race and the Death Penalty in America. American Journal of Political Science, 51(4), 996–1012 (p. 1002).
Hetey, R. C. & Eberhardt, J. L. (Forthcoming). Racial Disparities in Incarceration Increase Acceptance of Punitive Policies. Psychological Science.