U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Immigrants and the Criminal Justice System: An Exploratory Study

NCJ Number
Violence and Victims Volume: 13 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 1998 Pages: 21-30
Date Published
10 pages

This study looks empirically at the experiences of recent immigrants with the United States criminal justice system.


Contrary to expectations, immigrants interviewed for the study reported relatively few problems unique to foreign-born persons in dealing with the police and the courts. Although recent immigrants' expectations of the criminal justice system may be different from those of native-born persons, their experiences and their satisfaction with the system were similar in many respects. The study cautions that low levels of language impediments may reflect high sensitivity and availability of special services in the two cities surveyed (New York City and Philadelphia), and may not be typical of other immigrant populations. In addition, despite use of multilingual interviewers, the population sampled may have been persons who spoke better English and were more committed to using criminal justice services, or the survey may have oversampled such individuals. Across the country special efforts are being made to make the criminal justice system more immigrant-friendly: multicultural staff, outreach efforts, attendance by police and district attorney staff at meetings of immigrant grass-roots groups, printing informational material in a variety of languages, and involving immigrant communities in citizen police and district attorney advisory committees. Tables, references

Date Published: January 1, 1998