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Are Hispanic imprisonment rates equivalent with other cultures?

Updated: Oct 11, 2018



One would assume that incarceration rates amongst races would be equivalent. However, the evidence behind this claim appears to be different. In this month’s entry, we will explore the incarceration rates amongst different races with particular focus on Hispanics in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Incarceration Rates of Different Races in

the United States

Submitted by: Dr. Lincoln Sloas


Building off last month’s entry, we discovered that crime is much more likely to be intraracial (i.e., between the same race) rather than interracial (i.e., amongst different races). One would assume that incarceration rates amongst races would be equivalent. However, the evidence behind this claim appears to be different. In this month’s entry, we will explore the incarceration rates amongst different races with particular focus on Hispanics in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month.


Recent estimates from the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggest that at year in 2016, 339,600 Hispanic; 487,300 Black; and 440,200 Whites were imprisoned in both state and federal correctional facilities (Carson, 2018). In this example, Hispanics are the least of the three racial groups to be imprisoned. This is shown in the table below.



2016 Bureau of Justice Statistics Imprisonment Rates

When further breaking down these numbers into percentages similar patterns emerge. For example, both Hispanic males (16.6% and 21.1%) and females (10.6% and 16.2%) have lower percentages of imprisonment versus white males (39% and 30.6%) females (61% and 47.5%) and black males (41.3% and 34.9%) females (23.9% and 19.8%) (Carson, 2018). The two different percentages for each race represent the ways data were collected. These patterns are shown in the table below.


2016 Bureau of Justice Statistics Male vs. Female Imprisonment Rates

Finally, when looking at the age distribution of races imprisoned, Hispanics tend to have higher percentages. For example, males between the ages of 25-44 (17.2%-12.5%) have slightly higher percentages of imprisonment versus white and black males. The same pattern holds true for Hispanic females as well between the ages of 25-39 (19.7%-17.6%) (Carson, 2018). This is shown in greater detail in the table below.


2016 Bureau of Justice Statistics Age Distribution Imprisonment Rates

Overall, from a criminological standpoint, the research tends to suggest that Hispanics are incarcerated at lower rates versus their White and Black counterparts. However, this does not tend to be the case when viewing mainstream media accounts. What is important is to remember how we are entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts. #identitycrime


Lincoln B. Sloas, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University. His research interests include community corrections with an emphasis on how individuals navigate substance use treatment services and problem-solving courts.

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