The Denver Post
A decade ago, there were 3,578 adult Latinos in Colorado's state prisons. At the end of the last fiscal year, there were more than twice that, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Colorado does not have the same problematic numbers as the federal prison system, where more than half of all prisoners sentenced to time behind bars last year were Latino. But the percentage of Latino prisoners in Colorado does outstrip the size of that population. Colorado's Latino population now stands at 20.9 percent. In prisons, Latinos account for 33 percent of all those locked up, Colorado corrections department figures show.
Latinos have consistently made up about 30 percent of the state's prison population for the past decade.
Part of that increase in total numbers is due to the increase in the Latino population.
But another factor, according to the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, is likely due to the fact that there is more street-level policing in neighborhoods with high Latino populations.
"There has been consistent evidence over time that people of color are significantly more likely to be arrested and incarcerated, particularly for drug offenses," said Christie Donner, executive director of the coalition.
Figures for Colorado's inmate population show some other disparities in prison populations related to race. African-American males and females now make up 20 percent and 15 percent of their respective prison populations, while that racial group totals only 4.3 percent of Colorado's population.
Meanwhile, Caucasian men and Caucasian women represent 44 percent and 52 percent of their respective prison populations in Colorado. But Caucasians, who are not identified as of Hispanic descent in the latest U.S. Census report, comprise about 70 percent of the general population in the state.
Colorado's incarceration figures for Latinos may be out of proportion to population, but they are more in balance than the latest national count for Latino prisoners in federal prisons. Latinos now outnumber all other ethnic groups sentenced to serve time in federal prisons for felonies, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
In 2012, more than half of all people being sent to federal prisons for felony crimes are Latino, commission numbers show. Latinos, who make up 16 percent of the U.S. population, added up to 50.3 percent of those sentenced to federal prisons. African-Americans made up 9.7 percent and Caucasians 26.4 percent.
Thirty-three percent of the Latinos sent to federal penitentiaries were there for immigration crimes, including illegal crossing and immigrant smuggling. Immigration crimes have been responsible for most of the increase in the number of Latinos sent to prison in the last decade, the commission's statistics show.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
The Denver Post