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art by Favianna Rodriguez

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

“ You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. ” – César Chávez, UFW

New Poll: Large Majority of Latinos Support Reduced Penalties for Drug Offenses

With Record Numbers of Latinos Behind Bars for Non-Violent Drug Offenses, 69% of Latinos Want Sentencing Reform

May 20, 2014

Los Angeles, CA - An overwhelming number of California Latinos support reducing penalties for non-violent drug offenses according to a new poll conducted for Presente.org and the Drug Policy Alliance by Latino Decisions. The poll challenges conventional wisdom that Latinos are conservative on the issue of sentencing reform relating to small drug possessions. The poll comes just as “the Fair Sentencing Act,” SB 1010 works its way through the California Legislature, and shows that such laws have enthusiastic support from the Latino electorate.

This new research also comes out as advocates push a major citizens initiative, titled the “Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act”, expected to qualify and appear in the general election ballot this November.

See the poll here: Sentencing Reform Poll

Top lines of the study:
- Latino voters in California, by wide margins, support efforts to remove and/or reduce criminal penalties for drug-related offenses: across the survey about two-thirds to three-quarters of Latinos support decriminalization of drug use and possession.
- While support for decriminalization is high across all segments of the Latino electorate, it is highest among lower-income and younger Latinos as well as Democrats.
- California laws that decriminalize drug possession will receive enthusiastic support from the Latino electorate.

The poll was commissioned by Presente.org and the Drug Policy Alliance and carried out by Latino Decisions.

“This survey establishes some very critical findings that Latino voters in California are frustrated with current sentencing and drug policies and want to see changes made,” said Matt Barretto, Principal at Latino Decisions. “If politicians want to mobilize the Latino vote, they need to support these issues which have an overwhelming majority of Latino support”, added Barreto.

“Latinos are fed up with a ‘war on drugs’ that has become a war on Latino families,” said Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org. “Despite using no more drugs than their white counterparts, Latinos and African Americans are imprisoned at record rates— tearing apart families and leaving entire communities impoverished. Now, it’s clear that the Latino electorate supports change— Latinos understand that drug sentencing is increasingly nothing more than government sponsored discrimination and they want sentencing reform.”

“The voices of Latinos have been sorely missing in the national debate about the failed war on drugs,” said Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The findings of this poll affirm that Latinos want drug law sentencing reform and a fix for our broken justice system that continues to disproportionately target and negatively impact people of color.”

"There are unprecedented new opportunities in California for Latinos to voice their perspectives on how the criminal justice system can better serve the needs of their families and communities," said Mike de la Rocha, Director of Strategic Partnerships in Los Angeles for Californians for Safety and Justice. "As local and state governments reexamine how to shift away from one-size-fits-all incarceration policies, Latinos can be at the forefront of a move toward smarter justice."

Over the coming weeks and months, Latino and ally groups will work to support common sense sentencing and drug policy reforms in the state legislature and, upon it’s qualification, to support the passage of the Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act on the 2014 November ballot.


Presente.orgis the nation’s largest online Latino organizing group with more than 300,000 members, all working to amplify the political voice of Latino communities.

Latino Decisions is the leader in Latino political opinion research. Founded by professors of political science, Dr. Gary M. Segura and Dr. Matt Barreto, our firm leverages a unique combination of analytical expertise and cultural competencies that are unparalleled in the industry. The Latino Decisions team is comprised exclusively of credentialed research scientists with established publication records, rigorous methodological training, and experience with large-scale collaborative research projects.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.