Both in research and throughout the media, terms like “minority” and “person of color” typically imply black and Hispanic people, and those groups are the most highly and disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system. Nevertheless, that does not preclude a deeper investigation into how other racial and ethnic minorities, simply classified as “other,” navigate the criminal justice sphere.
From available data, we know that Asians are largely underrepresented in the federal criminal justice system, as they make up 5.6 percent of the US population but only 1.5 percent of the federal prison population. But a quarter of state agencies do not include “Asian” as its own race category, and because the overwhelming majority of incarcerated people are housed in state prisons, we need rich data on both the state and federal levels to learn more about AAPIs in the justice system.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders occupy a unique niche in the criminal justice conversation, one that the available data cannot sufficiently explain. Disaggregated data can strengthen our grasp of racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system, both by breaking down the vague “other” category and by providing critical insights on AAPIs. Research practices that acknowledge the multiplicity of experiences within the AAPI community can close service gaps and inform more inclusive policies.
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