The Rise of African American and Latinos Going to Jail

Raleigh Ferrell, an African-American, became a victim of the federal system at the age of 20. Ferrell was convicted of a drug charge in the early 1980’s.

Ferrell’s race is an example of what race composes our federal prison system. However, despite understatements, African-Americans are not the majority race convicted of federal crimes.

Latinos now account for 40% of all convicted federal crimes and African-Americans make up about 39%. The increase of Latinos in the prison system has sharply changes the federal prison culture. According to Deborah Williams, an assistant federal defender in Phoenix, the culture change is based on “a large number of Latinos having limited English proficiency.”

Due to the continuous increase of Latinos and African-Americans in the prison system, correctional facilities have become over-crowded-which has caused budget cuts. A Pew Hispanic Center study released in mid-February 2009 documents states “Latinos now make up 40 percent of the estimated 200,000 prisoners in federal penitentiaries.”

Additionally, the study states that “almost half of the Latino population in federal prison is composed of immigrants.”

Despite the prison culture shock, some have learned to accept Latinos as another race that has unfortunately become part of the prison system. “We all come from different backgrounds, but are all now in the same situation,” said Ferrell.

Although the increase of Latinos and African-Americans continue to rise, prison life can produce a positive change. “I learned my lesson the first time around and made sure to turn my life around,” added Ferrell. And, my father did make that groundbreaking change.


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