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UCLA LPPI Founding Director Sonja Diaz in conversation with Juan Cartegena, president and general counsel of Latino Justice – PRLDEF.

What would our criminal legal system look like if it was truly designed to reduce harm, advance public safety, and end America’s legacy as the world’s leading incarcerator?

That was the question on everyone’s mind last week as our nation’s leading Latino elected officials, advocates, academics, and media personalities convened to grapple with the issue of criminal justice — an issue of intense national debate since last summer. Hosted by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (UCLA LPPI), LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Drug Policy Alliance, and the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, the convening Activating Justice Through a Latinx Lens” was aimed at creating greater visibility of Latinos within the justice reform movement, identifying opportunities to build solidarity with other communities most impacted by the criminal legal system, and advancing transformative policy aimed at justice rather than punishment.

“For too long Latinos have been left out of the criminal justice conversation, even though we are the second most negatively impacted group by numbers behind Black people when it comes to our criminal legal systems,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of UCLA LPPI.

Crimmigration panel moderated by Jonathan Jayes-Greene of the Marguerite Casey Foundation and featuring Jacinta Gonzalez (Mijente), Greisa Martinez Rosas (United We Dream), Jennifer M. Chacón, (UCLA) and Abraham Paulos (Black Alliance for Just Immigration)

With conversations led by UCLA LPPI faculty experts such as Dr. Jennifer Chacón, over 1,000 participants tuned in to hear from a multiracial cadre of 40 speakers covering topics from ending youth incarceration, to the movement to defund the police, to the intersection of the criminal legal and immigration systems — all through a Latinx lens. Featured speakers like renowned journalist Maria Hinojosa and author Julissa Arce created the opportunity for lively discussions about the opportunity to create new, more truthful and inclusive narratives in the criminal justice space and develop tailored solutions that address the underlying structural and systemic deficiencies that drive people to engage in harmful acts.

“It was so exciting to see this come together with so many brilliant people who were able to bring fresh perspective on the issue, the challenges and opportunities before us and how we can work in solidarity across race and experience to achieve common goals that make our communities safer and healthier,” said Paula Nazario, a UCLA LPPI fellow and one of the lead organizers for the convening.

Opening Plenary Moderated by Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa with Author and Education Advocate Julissa Arce, MacArthur Genius Award Winner and UCLA LPPI Faculty Member Dr. Kelly Lytle-Hernández, UCLA, Judge Natalia Cornelio for the 351st District Court, Harris County Texas and David Luis ‘Suave’ Gonzalez, host of Death by Incarceration and The Suave Podcasts

One of the most engaging discussions of the two-day convening was the opening plenary and break-out sessions that followed. The panel discussion, which featured UCLA LPPI faculty and scholar Dr. Kelly Lytle-Hernández gave attendees key insight into the impacts of the criminal legal system on Latinos, the structural racism propping up our entire system of incarceration, and how the criminalization of immigrants is working to further expand systems of mass incarceration rather than contract them. The subsequent breakout sessions then enabled attendees to think about how they can demand better data that creates a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities ahead and how Latino facing organizations — both within and outside the justice reform space – can work together to create broad change within these systems.

Over the course of the convening dialogue continually underscored the immense data and knowledge gap that obscures the true impact of the criminal legal system on Latino individuals, their families and their communities. It also highlighted that if this gap persists there is a risk of creating solutions that fail to address challenges unique to Latinx individuals who are systems-impacted and recreating inequities that exist in our current criminal legal system.

The two-day meeting closed out with a conversation with Juan Cartegena, president and general counsel of Latino Justice PRLDEF. During that discussion he highlighted that while our criminal legal system hasn’t changed much in the past five decades, we are on the precipice of big change — change made possible by communities who see an unprecedented opportunity to fundamentally transform our systems of justice.

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that there have been amazing opportunities for organizing people around truth, and for having that truth talk to power,” said Cartegena. I think we’re stronger than ever to actually have conversations about dismantling systems, about what it means to invest in our communities in different ways and to think outside of every box at every corner so we can get things done.”

Academy Award®-nominated actor Edward James Olmos announced today that the Latino Film Institute (LFI) has named Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón, director of research and civic engagement of the Division of Social Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as the inaugural Latino Film Institute Scholar. The award comes with a $100,000 restrictive gift to be used over a two-year period for research designated by Dr. Ramón, including but not limited to, The Hollywood Diversity Report and a dedicated study on Latino representation in Hollywood and the Latino audience.

“It is a great honor for the Latino Film Institute to be able to provide our inaugural award to Dr. Ramón who has worked vigorously in raising awareness about the lack of diversity in Hollywood. It is of the utmost urgency that we, as a society, realize the importance of having diversity not only on our screens but also behind the camera. For the benefit of our future Latino generations, we must all do better at creating positive and accurate representation of Latinos in Hollywood, and it is by supporting the research and work done by Dr. Ramón that we can continue to make the necessary changes in our industry, culture and education to push and move forward to a better and more equitable future.”

“The Latino Film Institute does tremendous work in the community and in Hollywood to launch the careers of Latinx content creators and artists. So, I am honored to be the inaugural Latino Film Institute Scholar,” stated Dr. Ramón. “This generous award helps fund the research that UCLA Dean Darnell Hunt and I have been doing for several years on racial/ethnic and gender representation and their relationship to the bottom line in film and television. Most importantly, it will provide funding to conduct a study focused on Latinx representation and the Latinx audience informed by my expertise in Latinx and other race/ethnic and gender research. I look forward to continuing to advance the work that will uplift the Latinx community and to provide data that can be used by both content creators and Hollywood network and studio executives.”

The Latino Film Institute (LFI) is dedicated to showcasing, strengthening, and celebrating the richness of Latino lives by providing a pipeline, platform, and launching pad from our community into the entertainment industry. LFI’s three most prominent programs are the  LatinX in Animation (LXiA), the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) and the Youth Cinema Project (YCP). LXiA represents a diverse group within the Animation, VFX, and Gaming industries dedicated to uniting a talented pool of innovators with a heart to create exceptional stories across multiple platforms by organizing activities and events. LALIFF is a premier international event dedicated to showcasing the entirety of human experience from the Latino perspective, whether through film, television, digital, music, art, or any other vehicle, regardless of platform. As previously announced, LALIFF will host a virtual festival for the 2021 edition that will run from Wednesday, June 2 through Sunday, June 6.  This year’s program will be comprised of feature films, episodics, music, XR projects and short films, including those from LALIFF’s inaugural Latinx Inclusion Fellowship Series. YCP introduces elementary, middle, and high school students to the art of filmmaking and bridges the achievement and opportunity gaps by creating lifelong learners and the entertainment industry’s multicultural future, implemented in public schools across California.

Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón is the Director of Research and Civic Engagement for the Division of Social Sciences at UCLA. Dr. Ramón is a social psychologist who has worked on social justice issues related to equity and access in higher education and the entertainment industry for over fifteen years. She is the co-principal investigator of the Hollywood Advancement Project and manages its graduate research team. She is the co-author (with Dr. Darnell Hunt) of the annual Hollywood Diversity Report series that the project produces. She is also the managing editor of LA Social Science, an e-forum that showcases the vibrant and cutting-edge knowledge generated within the Division of Social Sciences at UCLA.

UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) and the Alianza for Youth Justice have released a new “Call to Action” report titled “The Latinx DATA GAP in the Youth Justice System.” This report shows that inconsistent data collection methods complicate race and ethnicity tracking across different stages in the youth justice system.

“As our country undertakes a long overdue reckoning on race and justice, it is critical that Latinos be included in the conversation,” said Sonja Diaz, Founding Director of the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative and one of the report’s co-authors. “Far too often we are overlooked, but to effectively address inequities in the justice system, especially the egregious disparities facing Black Americans, policymakers and advocates need accurate data on Latinx youth. This new report details the challenges of collecting data on system-impacted youth and offers a way forward so that leaders can craft viable solutions based on facts as we reopen our economy and transform failed systems.”

Findings:

1. Today, Latinx youth represent 25%, or about 8.3 million, of the total U.S. youth population between ages 10-17.

2. State agencies involved in the criminal justice system collect data that identifies Latinx youth inconsistently if at all, creating an incomplete picture of Latinx ethnic data.

3. States report racial/ethnic data inconsistently across the 3 points of contact: arrests, detention, and probation.

  • 42% of states did not report racial or ethnic data for arrests
  • 30% of states did not report racial and ethnic data for detention
  • 52% of states did not have racial or ethnic data for probation

To read the full report, click HERE.

To learn more about UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, visit: https://latino.ucla.edu/

By Bryanna Ruiz and Amado Castillo, Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) Public Policy Fellows

The UCLA Center for the Study of Women held its 30th Annual Graduate Student Thinking Gender Conference in early March, in order to honor Women’s History Month. The annual conference was co-sponsored by various research centers and organizations, including the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI). The conference focused on feminist, queer, trans, identities and anti-carceral, transnational, and intersectional approaches to sexual violence. In light of the #MeToo movement and other movements aiming to combat sexual violence, this conference proved necessary in order to discuss approaches to justice and restoration that center the needs of communities of color.

The conference, “Thinking Gender: Sexual Violence as Structural Violence Feminist Visions of Transformative Justice,” centered on the work of graduate students who studied sexual abuse cases in different contexts, including within communities in Uganda and Latinx communities. One of the first panels to open up the conference was “Extractive Economies and Sexual Violence,” moderated by LPPI faculty expert Dr. Leisy Abrego, who offered critical insight into the research papers presented by asking more on the application of the theory towards the subjects that were studied.

The conference diverged from the traditional interpretation of justice. Rather, the conference created a space for discourse that advocates for a transformative and restorative interpretation of justice that acknowledges the different identities that are most vulnerable to sexual violence. This radical perspective works to center survivors and questions forms of justice that perpetuate existing inequalities among different communities – an important point of reflection to carry past this year’s Women’s History Month.

Laura Lievano-Karim, a UCLA graduate student from the department of Social Welfare, presented her paper which was co-written with LPPI faculty expert Dr. Amy Ritterbusch entitled, “On Street Survival, Autonomous Bodies and Structures of Oppression: The Messiness of Naming and Framing Violence Against Street-Connected Girls in Uganda.” The project was led by researchers who had previously lived in Uganda and came from similar backgrounds as the test subjects. The researchers had autonomy over many of the variables involved in the project and utilized their insight and experience in order to enhance the research Lievano-Karim’s paper focused on what, patterns could be observed from girls involved in the sex industry in Uganda by studying their lived-in experiences through interviews. Lievano-Karim invited the audience to think beyond the two categories of sex work and sex exploitation when listening to the narratives of the girls from Uganda. Lievano-Karim said, “We identified three discursive patterns and each pattern followed a trend in the ways that sexual violence is discussed by the participants. This category should not be understood as isolated or ecstatic, they overlap one with the other. This highlights the complexities found in the lived experiences of these girls”.

Another graduate student from UCLA, Magally Miranda from the Chicana/o Studies department, focused on finding alternative ways to tackle sexual abuse among communities of color, specifically within the Latinx community. Miranda presented her paper titled, “Illegal Aliens” | Latina Feminists: Structural Vulnerability and the Battle Against Workplace Sexual Violence at Koch Poultry in Mississippi.” Miranda began her presentation by displaying a picture of two Latinas who witnessed many family members, friends, and coworkers being detained by ICE at Koch Poultry in Mississippi. The image depicted the fear and emotion among the Latinx community after Koch Poultry, which predominantly employed Latinxs, was raided by ICE agents. This became the largest known workplace raid by ICE in modern U.S. history and was a form of retaliatory violence and structural sexual violence, in that it was initiated by the state due to continuous workplace violation lawsuits made by female employees.

“As of the time that this paper was written, factory owners had received no more than a slap on the wrist for their involvement in hiring undocumented workers. Instead…workers were the ones who wore the brunt of the attacks and were systematically demonized, apprehended, and inflicted with trauma,” said Miranda as she opened up her presentation. Miranda went on to discuss the work abuse suffered by many of the workers who were forced to perform the same task hundreds of times during the day. The analysis of the testimonies conducted showed that many women employed by the factory, particularly Latinas, suffered sexual abuse during their shifts. One worker, who identified as Latina, admitted that she was groped during her shift and that when her husband, who also worked for the company, attempted to intervene, he was beaten by his employers. Latinxs, in particular, were the workers that suffered physical and emotional abuse by their employers at the factory. Miranda noted that the large scale ICE raid occurred after a Mississippi judge ruled that the company owed immigrant Latina women 3.7 million dollars in damages.

The Thinking Gender Conference created an interdisciplinary discourse surrounding structural sexual violence. The conference put researchers from around the world in conversation, which allowed them to share the diversity of thought embedded within their research. Although their research varied depending on their community of focus and their own lived experiences, they all shared the same goal in utilizing their research to address the different ways that structural violence projects itself in our world.

Now that this year’s Women’s History Month has ended, we are asked to continue reflecting, beyond the month of March, on how to tackle structural violence and approach justice in ways that acknowledge communities of color and those most vulnerable.

By UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI)

In their 5th Annual Latinx Criminal Justice Convening, LatinoJustice PRLDEF partnered with Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network brought local and national organizations to Brownsville, TX to engage in conversation about Latinos in the criminal justice and immigration systems.

This two-day encuentro was intended to create a space for Latino leaders, activists, academics and impacted community members to explore the connection to the criminal justice and immigration systems across the United States while strategizing new efforts for a more inclusive movement that does not leave anyone behind.

Latino Justice PRLEF’s Jorge Renaud welcoming attendees and introducing the convening and its goals.

“It’s important to be collaborating [and to] bring that intersectionality in this space,” said Christina Patiño Houel, Network Weaver for RGV Equal Voice Network. Intersectionality and inclusivity were interwoven throughout the convening, being cognizant of the ways different structural oppressions work in tandem to affect the most vulnerable in our communities, in order to combat these injustices effectively. An example was how interpreters established a multilingual culture, ensuring Spanish and English-only speakers communicated smoothly with each other, as the organizers understood that language barriers hinder those trying to combat the injustices within the justice system and also understood that interpretation and translation were necessary since the event was a community-centered multi-generational convening. This emphasis was also felt when formerly-incarcerated individuals were welcomed home for the first time, integrating a healing component for all participants.

The discussions began by exploring how criminality, incarceration, immigration and the war on drugs have all played a role in the current relationship between the Latinx community and the criminal justice system. The lack of data on this community was highlighted by LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s president, Juan Cartagena, when he discussed how every system “affects us and we don’t even know how… we’re invisible.” He explained how even as the largest ethnic minority in the country, the system could not answer simple questions as to how many Latinxs are arrested. This point was underscored by Dr. Edward Vargas’, from Arizona State University, urgency for not only the need for data but accurate data. For example, polls said that 34% of Latinos had voted for Trump in Texas, but this number was proven to be wrong. When the precinct data was scraped, the actual number was 16%.

ACLU’s National Campaign Strategist, Jessica Sandoval; Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s Policy Analyst Jose Flores; and Youth Justice Coalition’s Anthony Robles talking speaking on the best strategies to end youth solitary confinement.

Community members highlighted their work on the ground to end collaboration between the state and local police departments with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the states of Texas and Georgia, jail closure and the prevention of a new jail in Los Angeles, and litigation. Crimmigration was the focal point of these conversations, where attorneys explained the importance of litigation and the need for patience in both the length of the process and the lack of social justice lawyers.

The conversation zeroed in on experts as they engaged in fishbowl conversations, discussing the development of gang databases and its impact on the immigrant community, the fight towards ending youth solitary, and the impact of these efforts on a national level.

Day one came to a close with the screening of Bad Hombres: From Colonization to Criminalization by award-winning filmmaker Carlos Sandoval, with attendees expressing their impressions to the documentary.

The second day was reserved for breakout sessions encouraging collaboration and the exchange of best practices in order to advance efforts and find resources in the community. Accountability partners were found and followed-up conversations were scheduled to further collaborate as a group.

“Learning more about crimmigration and its impact on the Latinx community has been eye-opening,” noted second-year UCLA Luskin student María Morales who attended the convening.  “It was an honor being able to attend this convening and feel such passion and dedication in the room.”

Attendees identifying action steps to continue collaboration among the organizations present.