Are There Other Racial or Ethnic Groups Who Experience Disproportionate Incarceration
Answer: African Americans are hardly the only group to experience disproportionate incarceration. Among other disproportionately incarcerated racial and ethnic groups, Hispanics (Latinos) and Native Americans (American Indians) have received the most attention.
The Facts: Black incarceration rates have dominated both the research and the public discussion of disparate incarceration in the United States. However, other racial and ethnic groups have also experienced incarceration rates that are disproportionate to their share of the general population. The incarceration rates of two groups in particular, Hispanics and Native Americans, have received growing attention in recent years.
Hispanics are imprisoned in federal and state institutions at a rate of 856 inmates per 100,000 adults—about half the black figure but triple the white ( Carson, 2018 , 8). By contrast, the Hispanic jail incarceration rate (185 per 100,000) is only a little higher than the white (171) and much lower than the black (599) ( Zeng, 2018 , 3). The Hispanic share of the community supervision population (probation and parole) appears to be slightly lower than the Hispanic share of the general population ( Kaeble & Bonczar, 2016 ). In the juvenile system, the out-of-home placement rate of Hispanic youth is about 65 percent higher than is the rate for white youth ( Sentencing Project, 2017a ).
According to victim surveys, Hispanic offenders account for about 17 percent of violent crime ( Morgan, 2017 , 3), which is about the same as the Hispanic share of the general population and a little less than the Hispanic share of the prison population (23 percent). In 2016, FBI data indicate that 18 percent of arrestees in the United States were Hispanic ( Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2017 , Table 21), although this data must be used with caution since ethnicity went unreported for about 21 percent of arrests. Hispanics accounted for 24 percent of arrests for major Page 198 | Top of Articleviolent crime, 21 percent of burglary arrests, 11 percent of fraud arrests, 24 percent of weapons arrests, and 20 percent of drug arrests. The general picture seems to be one of some Hispanic overrepresentation among those arrested for serious crime but to a much less extent than with African Americans. As with African Americans, the Hispanic arrest rates for serious crimes are roughly in line with the Hispanic imprisonment rate. This suggests that criminal justice actors may add relatively little to disparities that arise at the offense and arrest stages.
As of 2016, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports there were nearly 23,000 federal and state prisoners who were categorized as “American Indian or Alaska Native” ( Carson, 2018 , 25-26). This figure indicates an imprisonment rate for this population of about 857 per 100,000, about the same as the Hispanic rate. However, the jail incarceration rate was substantially higher than that of Hispanics at 359 per 100,000 ( Zeng, 2018 , 3), giving Native Americans a higher overall incarceration rate than Hispanics. The figure would likely grow even somewhat larger if jails administered by Indian tribes or the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs were included; these facilities hold about 2,500 inmates ( Minton & Cowhig, 2017 ). Native Americans appear to be somewhat overrepresented in the national parole population but somewhat underrepresented in the probation population ( Glaze & Bonczar, 2011 , 35, 45). In the juvenile system, the out-of-home placement rate of Native American youth is about three times higher than is the rate for white youth ( Sentencing Project, 2017b ).
Victim surveys indicate that about 0.4 percent of violent crimes are committed by American Indians or Alaska Natives ( Morgan, 2017 , 3), which is substantially lower than their 0.8 percent share of the general population or their 1.5 percent share of the prison population. However, the Native American arrest figures are considerably higher. The FBI data for 2016 indicate that American Indians and Alaska Natives accounted for 2.0 percent of total arrests, 1.8 percent of arrests for major violent crime, 1.0 percent of burglary arrests, 1.2 percent of fraud arrests, 0.9 percent of weapons arrests, and 1.0 percent of drug arrests ( Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2017 , Table 21). Thus, there is a substantial overrepresentation of Native Americans in the arrest population, especially with respect to major violent crime, and this overrepresentation seems roughly in line with their overrepresentation in the prison population.
The disproportionate incarceration of Hispanics and Native Americans has not been studied as much as the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans, but likely arises to some extent from a similar set of dynamics. All three groups have suffered a long history of discrimination and negative stereotyping in the United States and continue to Page 199 | Top of Articleexperience elevated rates of socioeconomic disadvantage. These factors doubtlessly contribute to the disproportionate arrest rates for all three groups.
As to Hispanics, a growing body of appropriately controlled studies indicates that disparate incarceration cannot be fully explained by reference to offense severity and criminal history. For instance, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has found that Hispanic males in the federal system receive sentences that average 5.3 percent longer than those of similarly situated white males ( Schmitt, Reedt, & Blackwell, 2017 , 6). Similar results, reflecting a modest but statistically significant tendency toward greater severity for Hispanic defendants, have also been found in various state-level studies ( e.g., Ulmer, Painter-Davis, & Tinik, 2014; Bales & Piquero, 2012 ).
Much less research is available regarding Native Americans. This is likely due in part to their much smaller numbers, but may also reflect the unique complexities of criminal court jurisdiction in cases with Native American defendants. Depending on the state, the location of the crime within the state, the type of crime, and the race of the victim, a Native American might be prosecuted in a state court, a federal court, or one of the hundreds of highly varied tribal courts that exist in the United States ( Droske, 2008 , 737-38). It is thought that some of the Native American incarceration disparity might result from the fact that in some states, Native American defendants are commonly prosecuted in federal court for engaging in criminal conduct that, if committed by non-Native Americans, would be prosecuted in state court, where penalties tend to be lower. In any event, the highly fractured nature of jurisdiction in Native American cases makes it particularly difficult to develop helpful, appropriate comparisons of sentencing outcomes.
Bales, William & Piquero, Alex. 2012. “Racial/Ethnic Differentials in Sentencing to Incarceration.” Justice Quarterly, 29, 742.
Carson, E. Ann. 2018. Prisoners in 2016. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
Droske, Timothy. 2008. “Correcting Native American Sentencing Disparity Post-Booker.” Marquette Law Review, 91, 722.
Glaze, Lauren & Bonczar, Thomas. 2011. Probation and Parole in the United States, 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
Kaeble, Donald & Bonczar, Thomas. 2016. Probation and Parole in the United States, 2015. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
Minton, Todd & Cowhig, Mary. 2017. Jails in Indian Country, 2016. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
Morgan, Rachel. 2017. Race and Hispanic Origin of Victims and Offenders, 2012-15. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
Schmitt, Glenn, Reedt, Louis, & Blackwell, Kevin. 2017. Demographic Differences in Sentencing: An Update to the 2012 Booker Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Sentencing Project. 2017a. Fact Sheet: Latino Disparities in Youth Incarceration. Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project.
Sentencing Project. 2017b. Fact Sheet: Native Disparities in Youth Incarceration. Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project.
Ulmer, Jeffrey, Painter-Davis, Noah, & Tinik, Leigh. 2014. “Disproportionate Imprisonment of Black and Hispanic Males: Sentencing Discretion, Processing Outcomes, and Policy Structures.” Justice Quarterly, 33, 642.
Zeng, Zhen. 2018. Jail Inmates in 2016. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
Gale Document Number: GALE|CX7644800050