Jail records actually record race origins

I was on the Jackson County Jail website, and I noticed that the county uses only two different races — white and black. Why is this? It seems like there is more of a diverse group in jail.

— J.F., Medford

The computer program that tracks jail bookings actually give clerks and officers five racial categories to choose from. Those categories match federal standards set in 1997 and are used in the Census, officials at the jail said.

The categories are white, black, Asian, Pacific Islander and Indian, which includes all American Indian tribes and Alaska natives. Those are the categories the Office of Management and Budget adopted in 1997 for the collection of data on race. The jail here also uses an "unknown" category.

A separate category on the jail booking form is ethnicity, in which there are only two options: "Hispanic or Latino" or "Not Hispanic or Latino." That information isn't displayed on the online list of inmates.

The Census notes that people who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino or Spanish may be of any race.

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