Posted on March 13, 2023

Study: Jails and Police Rarely Track Latinos’ Racial and Ethnic Data

Russell Contreras and Astrid Galván, Axios, March 9, 2023

A new report examining how Latinos interact with the criminal justice system found police and jails rarely track their racial and ethnic data, complicating how researchers track potential disparities.


  • Author Nancy Rodriguez says she hopes the study will be the first of many to look at how Latinos interact with the criminal justice system because having accurate data will lead to reforms and more racial equity.

Details: Rodriguez and co-author Rebecca Tublitz collected arrest and detention data by race and ethnicity from 14 cities and zeroed in on four counties {snip}

  • They found just 30% of record management systems capture Latino or Hispanic ethnicity data separately from racial characteristics, while the rest capture Latino ethnicity as a single race.


  • Police and jail departments that have the ability to track race and ethnicity didn’t do it well and had a lot of missing data, which hurt attempts to measure outcomes for Latinos {snip}


Between the lines: Every state is different in how their police departments define who is Hispanic, and many don’t consider that Latinos can be of any race, says Alex del Carmen, a Tarleton State University criminologist.

  • “Instead, (police) default to white. It’s almost like the racial category supersedes the ethnic category,” del Carmen tells Axios.