Hispanics new majority sentenced to federal prison

By GARANCE BURKE | September 6, 2011 | 6:35 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A new government report released Tuesday shows that more than half of all people sentenced to serve time in federal prison for committing felonies are Hispanic, a seismic demographic shift swollen by immigration offenses.

Hispanics already outnumber all other ethnic groups sent to prison for committing federal felonies. The preliminary U.S. Sentencing Commission shows that now, for the first time, Hispanics comprised 50.3 percent of all federal offenders in the first nine months of this fiscal year.

In comparison, last year Hispanics made up just 16 percent of the total U.S. population.

Sentences for felony immigration crimes, which include illegal crossing as well as other crimes such as alien smuggling, accounted for most of the increase in the number of Hispanics sent to prison over the last decade.