Stereotypes, Class, and "Dangerousness": Latinos in Prison

Michael Coyle, Arizona State University

Stereotypes have always haunted ethnic immigrant/resident bodies in the US. For Latinos, these have included broad characterizations of "always arriving late," and of "lacking ambition." In this paper I argue that the Latino presence in the US has been unlike any other ethnic immigrant/resident body because of the high incarceration rate it experiences. In this paper I outline a brief class analysis of the Latino experience within a discussion of class structures in US society (Perrucci and Wysong 1999) and in an overview delineate the class consequences of racial inequality in the US (Oliver and Shapiro1997). In my paper it is my goal to look more closely at the economic displacement of Latinos in modern US society, and to examine their high incarceration rate as a consequence. The theme of this paper is the analysis of how the economic marginilization of Latinos and the construction of Latinos as "dangerous" result in the high incarceration rate for Latinos. Ultimately this paper explores the use of incarceration as a Latino "class control" device and an expression of a racially divisive society.

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Updated 05/20/2006