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Study: Hispanics Are Largest Ethnic Group In Federal Prisons

Publication Date: 
February 19, 2009
The New York Times
Solomon Moore

Lecturer in Law Lucas Guttentag is quoted in The New York Times in a story about the results of a study conducted by the Pew Research Center that show Latinos "represent the largest ethnic population in the federal prison system, accounting for 40 percent of those convicted of federal crimes." The New York Times Writes:

Latinos made up only 13 percent of the U.S. adult population in 2007, but they accounted for one-third of federal prison inmates that year, a result the study attributed to the sharp rise in illegal immigration and tougher enforcement of immigration laws.

Nearly half of Latino offenders, or about 48 percent, were convicted of immigration crimes, while drug offenses were the second-most-prevalent charge, according to the report.


Of Latino federal offenders, 72 percent are not U.S. citizens and most were sentenced in courts from one of the four states that border Mexico. Federal prisoners who are illegal immigrants are usually deported to their home countries after serving their sentences.

"The immigration system has essentially become criminalized at a huge cost to the criminal justice system, to courts, to judges, to prisons and prosecutors," said Lucas Guttentag, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. "And the government has diverted the resources of the criminal justice system from violent crimes, financial skullduggery and other areas that have been the traditional area of the Justice Department."