Racial classification of Inmates at the Orange County, Florida Jail.
Written by “Speak Up Florida” Research Team.
Orange Country, Florida Jail classifies inmates only as black and white. This classification system hides the fact that most incarcerated people in Orange County, Florida and USA in general, are Black or Hispanics. However, a simple check of the information they provide online in the Daily Bookings Report, would make people think that most of the people newly admitted to jail, are white people and not minorities.
There is enough research that proves and documents racial disparities in incarceration rates in the USA. Nationwide, There is a disproportionate minority representation at all levels of the criminal system, including the County Jails bookings. This is also associated to Mass incarceration, which has a high impact specially on communities of color and also the fact, that Whites are underrepresented and Hispanics overrepresented in the inmate population. We prove here that the same trend is happening at the Orange County, Florida, Jail, though that racial disparity is not visible when reading the bookings report in the way it is written, classifying inmates just as black or white.
Due to the fact that in Florida there is no standardized inmate classification system, county jails have the option to use whichever system they choose. In Orange County, a county with a significant percentage of immigrants and Hispanics, inmates newly admitted to jail are just classified as black or white. As it is widely recognized, the correct racial/ethnical classification of an inmate, among other factors, is important also for the safety of the inmate. Failure to correctly classify inmates creates risk to the inmates, staff and the whole jail community.
This is especially important for county jail facilities, because they house all categories of inmates, from low risks to very high risks, as well as individuals who have not been yet convicted of a crime.
It looks like this subjective racial classification is used in one of the counties with largest Hispanic population in Florida, is used to hide the disparities in the incarceration rates by race and also possibly to avoid the often difficult task of classifying Hispanics, a very heterogeneous ethnical group that can be of any race.
Regarding this, it is important to notice the following: it is a big oversimplification to classify Hispanics as black or white. From the social point of view, it is necessary to be as accurate as possible when classifying inmates by race, so that biased or racist patterns of incarceration, systematically affecting disproportionately Blacks and Hispanics, can be identified and corrected.
As it has been stated by different researchers, among them Hartney and Vuong, “overrepresentation of people of color in the nation’s criminal justice system, also referred to as disproportioned minority contact(DMC) is a serious issue in our society”.
We took samples from the Daily Bookings Report at Orange County Jail corresponding to five different daily reports published online between December 15, 2014 and December 21, 2014. We counted the amount of inmates registered as black and the amount of inmate registered as white. Then we counted in each report how many people had clearly Hispanic names. We added the amount of people classified as black with the amount of people with clearly Hispanic names, thus calculating a percentage of “minorities” jailed. The total number of people in the bookings sample was 499.
Table 1: Racial Classification in each sample.
Sample Date Blacks White With Hispanic names Total number of inmates Percentage of “minorities”
12/15/2014 51 56 27 107 73
12/18/2014 54 61 25 115 69
12/19/2014 50 56 24 108 68
12/20/2014 45 45 21 90 73.3
12/21/2014 35 44 20 79 70
People with clearly Hispanic names and their racial classification in the Daily Bookings Report at Orange County Jail for December 21, 2014. (we omitted the first names to respect their privacy).
Desocio Dominguez White
Diaz Martinez White
Diaz Reyes White
Lopez, Godinez White
Marcos Padilla White
Soler Lugo Black
Sample Date # of “Whites” booked Real # of Non-Hispanic Whites booked
12/15/2014 56 27
12/18/2014 61 25
12/19/2014 56 24
12/20/2014 45 21
12/21/2014 44 20
Results and Analysis of this information (Tables 1, 2 and 3):
A visual look at the total of inmates the way it is reported by Orange County Jail indicates that more White people are incarcerated than Black people. However, scrutinizing further, it is clear that “minorities” (Blacks and Hispanics) are incarcerated at a larger rate by Orange County. On average, about 70% of the people incarcerated by Orange County are Blacks or Hispanics.
This racial classification of inmates used in Orange County inflates the numbers of incarcerated Whites, due to the misclassification of most Hispanics as White and at the same time, deflate the number of incarcerated Blacks. Probably other ethnic groups like Asians, with significant population in the county, should also be considered as a different group than White. As it can be seen in Table 2, 16 out of 21 (that is 76%) Hispanics are considered White and only 5 (that is 24%) are considered Blacks.
A more accurate classification should be Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, etc. this wouldn’t be just a racial classification, but a racial/ethnical classification that would definitely reflex much better the real rates of incarceration. This classification would be more useful also to house inmates because it would also take into account their cultural and linguistic affinities, for example.
In Orange County Jail, any given day, Blacks are almost 50% of the newly admitted inmates, “non-Hispanic” Whites are about 30% of the newly admitted inmates and Hispanics in general are about 25% of the new inmate population. This means there is a clear overrepresentation of Blacks among the incarcerated people. There is greater prevalence of arrest among Blacks.
Even with the classification system used at Orange County Jail, that inflates and deflates the numbers of Whites and Blacks booked, respectively, it is clear that in Orange County, as nationwide, there are great racial and ethnic disparities or overrepresentation of people of color in the criminal and correction systems. Orange County Jail should use a more objective classification system that includes the ethnical group Hispanics, at least because the way it is being currently reported hides the truth about which racial or ethnical groups are being arrested at a higher or disproportionate rate.
1) Brett C. Burkhardt . Where Have All the (White and Hispanic) Inmates Gone? Comparing the Racial Composition of Private and Public Adult Correctional Facilities. Race and Justice 2153368714539355, first published on July 11, 2014.
2) Tim Brennan and Dave Wells. The Importance of Inmate Classification in Small Jails. Northpointe Institute for Public Management, Inc. (2009).
3) Christopher Hartney and Linh Vuong. Racial and ethnic disparities in the US Justice System. National Council on Crime and Delinquency. (2009).
4) Marc Mauer, Addressing Racial disparities in Incarceration.. The Prison Journal. (2011).
5) David S. Kirk. The Neighborhood context of Racial and ethnical Disparities in Arrest. Demography. Vol 45(1). 2008 Feb.
6) Orange County, Florida Jail online daily bookings report.