“Los Encarcelados: Assessing the Increasing Rate of Latinos in American Prisons” – Marissa G. Leal


Name: Marissa G. Leal

Department: UIC Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement

Advisor: Mitzi Ramos, Ph.D. / LARES

According to Pew Research Center, the racial gap in the U.S prison population is shrinking. The number of White federal and state prisoners decreased from 499,800 to 438,500 and the number of African American federal and state prisoners have decreased from 592,900 to 475,900 between 2007 and 2017. However, the same cannot be said for Latino inmates. In fact, there was a slight increase in the Latino inmate population during this period from 330,400 to 336,500 (Gramlich, 2019). This literature review is aimed at examining what scholars are discussing regarding the increasing rates of Latino male inmates in American prisons with an emphasis on males, females, juveniles, and the undocumented. The research has noted that higher incarceration rates can be due to negative media representations, high recidivism rates, and public policies related to the War on Drugs. Research on Latina inmates is lacking, the limited research tends to focus on reasons regarding why Latinas are not being studied and not the underlying factors causing their high incarceration rates. Scholars noted that high incarceration rates for Latino Juveniles stem from the School-to-Prison and the Broken Education Pipelines, a lack of strong family structures, and histories of abuse. Lastly, when it came to undocumented Latinos, research discussed the criminalization based on migratory status and had conflicting points regarding differences in length of sentencing. Public policy can be used to address increases in Latino incarceration rates. Legislators should reexamine the impact of the War on Crime and War on Drugs on people of color, and focus on public policies that strengthen the education system and boost economic opportunities.

Keywords: Latino/a, prisons, undocumented, juveniles, education, & incarceration rates

Read more about Marissa's work here