Latinos in the Social Justice System

There has been a large settlement of Latinos in the United States, many of whom have been through discrimination by other individuals including those in authority. The issue involving discrimination has lead to several wrongful imprisonments of Latinos in California. Such cases include those of Ms. Plascencia and Mr. Bravo’s who’s rights to equal protection and equality to a fair trial were violated. There have been several reforms set in motion as a means to resolve civil rights lawsuits against California and their Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation however there is still a high population of Latinos in prisons some who are not identified as Latinos therefore resulting in inaccurate data of the prison population.

Latinos in the Justice SystemThroughout the years, discrimination has always been an issue in society, especially among those of color. Gradually over the years people began to accept that people of color (POC) are also entitled to equal rights, including equal protection against discrimination. However, there are many individuals, including people in authority, who believe that they are superior to people of color, judging them based on their skin color. Some may even assume that they are not United States citizens and yet the United States is composed of several nationalities. Latinos have faced and are still facing discrimination based on their appearances. Data regarding those arrested is not always accurate due to the misidentification of someone’s race.

Many Latinos have been wrongfully accused and punished for a crime they did not commit even with evidence provided. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights article states that “all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”. Nevertheless, this has been violated by many officers and other U.S citizens. Many Latinos lack knowledge of their rights and therefore people take advantage of them and end up

Latinos in the Justice System 2Liliana LezamaLLS100-Section FY48Professor Gabriela Ramirez-Vargaspleading guilty for a crime they did not commit. This results in higher Latino incarcerations all over the United States. Everyone, including Latinos has a right to equal protection against discrimination and “equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal” (UDHR, Article 10) which is often overlooked and that has to change. Latinos are entitled to equality regardless of their status and appearance.Criminal Justice ReformPolicies have been imitated in California as a way to reform the states criminal justice apparatus. There have been several “class action” civil rights lawsuit against the state and their Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation which has resulted in a “court mandated order” in efforts to reduce the state prison population due to violations of the United States Eighth Amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishments.

California has implemented several safety realignments as a means to comply to the federal courts order such as Assembly Bills 109 and 117 in October 2011 which sends felons who committed nonviolent, non-serious offenses to county jails instead of state prisons. On November 2012, 69.3% of California’s voters supported proposition 36, “Three Strikes Law” which had been modified in 1994. California’s voters imposed on the “third strike” life sentence based on the new felony convictions if they were serious or violent crimes? California’s voters also supported proposition 47 and 57 where 59.61% of California’s voters supported proposition 47 to reclassify non-serious and non-violent property, drug offenses or felonies to misdemeanor sentences. 64.46% of California’s voters supported proposition 57 which allowed those who were convicted of nonviolent offenses to become eligible for parole after their completion on their first prison term for their main offense. The United States previous president, Bill Clinton signed the “3 Strikes” bill in the year.

Latinos in the Justice System 3Liliana LezamaLLS100-Section FY48Professor Gabriela Ramirez-Vargas1994. Bill Clinton admitted that the “3 Strikes” bill he signed “made the problem (high prison population) worse’ instead of preventing individuals from committing even more crimes. (BBC, Bill Clinton regrets ‘three strikes’ bill) The “3 strikes” bill has been used by some presidents in anattempt to create safer communities. However, the “2 Strikes” law has not prevented violent crimes from occurring but may actually cause more violent crimes to occur as a way to not get apprehended by the cops.

The “3 Strikes Law” actually contributed to the increase of prison population on the Latino and black communities. In other words, the “3 Strikes Law” would actually have a different effect on minorities as they are more likely to be arrested for different charges and with the bill set in motion, judges ability to sentence individuals for certain crimes could possibly be taken away. (ACLU, 10 REASONS TO OPPOSE ‘3 STRIKES, YOU’RE OUT’)Latinos in PrisonThe term race was created by society to differentiate among others however, race describes the different physical characteristics seen through the eye. Genetically, scientists have found only 1% differences among humans. (Ramirez-Vargas, John Jay) That being said, the data regarding Hipics incarcerated is inconsistent due to the misidentification of someone’s race.

According to The Sentencing Project, Hipics being held in federal and state prisons as well aslocal jails make up over 15% of the inmate population, nearly 283,000 Hipics. “Nearly 1 in 3 (32%) of people held in federal prisons are Hipics.” In the year 2001, 4% of Hipic males in prison and jail were in their twenties and early thirties in comparison to the 1.8% of white males. Hipics are the fastest growing group to be imprisoned with an increase of all State and Federal inmates in 1985, 10.9% to 15.6% in 2001. From the years 1985 to 1995, the number of Hipics held in federal and state prisons rose by 21.9%, 12.3% averaged annual increase.

Latinos in the Justice System 4Liliana LezamaLLS100-Section FY48Professor Gabriela Ramirez-VargasCases in CaliforniaGuadalupe Plascencia has been a naturalized American for over three decades in California. Ms. Plascencia was briefly detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in San Bernardino County and was threatened with deportation. According to documentsan ICE officer told Ms. Plascencia that “Here, you are nobody,” “You are nothing”. Ms. Plascencia sued the government and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department forfalse arrest and imprisonment and for violation of her constitutional rights against unlawful seizure.

Ms. Placencia was awarded a $55,000 settlement. The lawsuit had said that she had not been the only U.S. citizens to have been arrested and detained by ICE who database is incomplete to confirm naturalization, fingerprints and citizenship before the year 2008. “According to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research center at Syracuse University, ICE requested the detention of 2,965 American citizens from 2004 through April 2018.” and is still not known how all of the requests turned out. (Hauser, U.S. Citizen Detained by ICE is Awarded $55,000 Settlement)Mark Bravo was working as a nurse at the Metropolitan State Hospital in Los Angeles.

Mark Bravo was one of the individuals accused of raping one of the hospitals frequent patient. Bravo was arrested and charged with rape even after having a strong alibi about his whereabouts.He had left the hospital at 11:00 am and returned later on in the day after 12:30 pm. He had been in meetings from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm and was completely unaware that someone had been raped that day until the next day of his arrest. There had been controversy involving DNA testing, the defense attorney claimed to have requested testing be done on the items found in the crime sceneby the district attorney’s office while the prosecution said that there was never a mention to have

Latinos in the Justice System 5Liliana LezamaLLS100-Section FY48Professor Gabriela Ramirez-Vargastesting be done before the trial began. The analyst had falsely testified that there was only a 1.5%of men who had the blood type found in the blanket when there is actually a 3% that can be found in the population. The analyst falsely testifying lead jurors to believe that the probability was twice as strong than it actually was. As a result Mr. Bravo was convicted of rape and an eight year sentence on February 20, 1990 and was later exonerated by DNA on January 6, 1994. Eyewitness, misidentification and unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science resulted in Mr. Bravo’s wrongful imprisonment that was later on compensated with a civil suit and private bill.

There are still other similar cases like those of Ms. Plascencia and Mr. Bravo where Latinos are convicted regardless of the evidence provided. SolutionsPossible solutions to decrease the prison population of wrongfully convicting individuals are to initiate partnerships with criminal justice-community based organizations, governmental bodies, research institutions, as well as Latino civil rights organizations. It would also be beneficial to get in contact with attorneys, policy advocators, and organizers to provide those who are wrongfully incarcerated with proper information in order to get a better outcome in trials.  Furthermore, informing criminal justice experts, lawyers, and those involved in the systemabout injustices against those who are wrongfully prosecuted would help collect more accurate data regarding the identification of individuals by race and ethnicity.

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