(Chicago) – Illinois has become one of only a handful of states to adopt standards requiring law enforcement to track Hispanic/Latino arrest data.
Only two states (New York and California) currently track such data, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Along with the 48 states that do not, neither does the FBI, rendering impossible a reliable determination by government officials, research analysts, service providers, and communities alike of how many people identifying as Hispanic/Latino are being arrested. Currently, these arrests are likely being counted in “white” and “African-American” categories.
However, on August 23, Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill to change that situation in Illinois.
Quinn signed legislation, Senate Bill 1598 (PA 098-0528), sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) and State Representative La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), requiring that a “Hispanic or Latino” field be included in the list of race categories used by Illinois law enforcement, the Illinois Department of Corrections, and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. The law also requires a good-faith effort to collect race and ethnicity information as self-identified by individuals involved in the system.
“Having incorrect or unreliable data is a problem when policymakers attempt to measure and address racial or ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez. “Without a clear picture of who is arrested for any particular crime and what the trends show in the aggregate, useful policy responses are difficult to shape.”
Rodriguez noted that there are 52 million Latinos in the United States, and yet national, state, and local criminal justice systems are overwhelmingly unable to track, for example, whether Hispanics are targeted for drug possession arrests at disproportionate rates compared to other groups.
The new law is an initiative of the Racial and Ethnic Impact Research Task Force, which was a state panel charged with determining a practical method for the standardized collection and analysis of data on the racial and ethnic identity of arrestees by State and local law enforcement agencies.
“This law will give Illinois policymakers, researchers, and communities an important tool to analyze arrest data, and to consider these data in creating appropriate community interventions, diversion strategies, and public safety responses,” Rodriguez added.