National poll shows Latinos concerned about police violence, feel less safe under Trump

[Originally posted at LatinoJustice PRLDEF.  Contact: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org]

LatinoJustice PRLDEF commissioned Latino Decisions, a national polling and policy group, to survey Latinos and document their experiences and opinions about the criminal justice system. It is the first ever poll of the Latino community focused on the criminal justice system. Many polls do not include Latinos and those that do are regional and/or statewide or limited to one or two issue areas.

“Latinos in America are significantly concerned about their public safety both at the hands of police and by their neighbors,” said Juan Cartagena, President of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “They are convinced that they will be more subject to unlawful deadly force by police compared to whites, they believe local police treat them in ways similar to how African-Americans are treated, and they disavow the use of racial profiling by law enforcement. Latinos also feel less safe after Trump’s election and they perceive whites to be more discriminatory or angry towards them since the presidential election.”

The national survey found that Latinos fully support: more rehabilitation, drug treatment and mental health programs over increased funding for police or prisons; less incarceration for nonviolent offenses; restoring the vote to people who have paid their debt to society – which they overwhelmingly support; fully counting Latinos separate from blacks or whites in criminal justice databases; and to a lesser extent, support for marijuana legalization.

“This unique poll highlights Latinos’ overwhelming support to increase funding for rehabilitation and mental health services to reduce crime,” said Dr. Edward Vargas, a senior analyst at Latino Decisions. “This poll also highlights the policy preferences for Afro Latinos, a group that is widely overlooked yet greatly impacted by criminal justice and policing.”

Latinos favor spending on rehabilitation programs and treatment over prisons and police in response to their significant concerns over the criminal justice system and their public safety. More than 50% of Latinos are convinced that police use deadly force unjustly against their community and a wide majority of Latinas feel less safe since President Trump was elected. As a measure of Latino support of reentry in general, over three-quarters of Latinos also support restoring the vote to people convicted of crimes.

Other findings include:

  • 76% of Latinos strongly support restoring the vote to people convicted of crimes after they have paid their debt to society, with the highest support, coming from Puerto Ricans (85%), younger Latinos, 18-34 yr. olds (84%), and Latinos previously stopped by police (82%). Restoring the vote is also supported by Latinos across partisan lines with 70% of Latino Republicans and 83% of Latino Democrats in favor of allowing the formerly incarcerated to participate in elections.
  • 84% of Latinos believe that racial profiling by the police based on race or ethnicity should not be permitted. In the context of the recent national attention given to the treatment of African-Americans by the police nearly two-thirds of Latinos (64%) believe Latinos experience similar treatment at the hands of police with higher proportions of Mexicans, Afro-Latinos, and Latinos directly stopped, arrested or victimized by crime, believing that’s the case.
  • 58% of Latinos are convinced police use deadly force unjustly against Latinos versus whites. Many more Latinos who are younger (69%), Afro-Latino (70%), or directly involved in the criminal justice system because they were stopped (71%), arrested (68%) or were victims (64%) hold that same belief.
  • The Latino data-gap problem – where law enforcement, corrections and parole agencies refuse to go beyond the black/white binary and count directly affected Latinos – is a salient one among Latinos with two-thirds of them think it important or very important to collect data on Latinos in the criminal justice system. Over three-quarters of all Afro-Latinos believe Latinos should be separately counted.
  • Almost three times as many Latinos (58%) would prefer funding for rehabilitation, drug and mental health programs as a way to reduce crime than funding for police departments (20%) and rehabilitation is far more preferable than increased money for prisons (6%), or deportations (12%). Among the most important problems that require attention in the criminal justice system, Latinos ranked insufficient rehabilitation programs and excessive incarceration of nonviolent offenders as numbers one and two, respectively.
  • Latino victims of crime have very strong voter participation rates. 92% of them voted in the 2016 elections, second only to Latino college grads (95%). Almost a third of all Latinos reported being a victim of crime but 55% of Latinos stopped by police and 64% of Latinos arrested were victims of crime.
  • A majority of Latinos (57%) feel less safe since Trump was elected with two-thirds of Latina women feeling less safe since Trump came aboard. Many more Latinos (72%) feel that since his election, whites have become more discriminatory and angry towards Latinos.
  • Half of all Latinos favor legalizing marijuana for personal use but only 16% of those who oppose legalization agree that prison is an appropriate remedy for personal use.

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