According to a study published by the Crime & Delinquency journal, almost half of all black males are arrested in the United States by the time they are 23 years old. The study, conducted by researchers at several universities, also found that almost 40% of white males are arrested in the U.S. by the same age.
Robert Brame, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina, led the study in which a representative sample of 7,335 people was used. Researchers found that more black and Hispanic men had been arrested as youths than white men for something other than a minor traffic violation. Furthermore, more men than women had been arrested by the time they were 23 years old.
By the time they reached 18 years old, 30% of black males and 26% of Hispanic males—compared to 22% of white males—had been arrested. By the time they reached 23 years old, those figures skyrocketed to 49% for black males, 44% for Hispanic males, and 38% for white males.
Interestingly, the study found the arrest rates among females were about the same for white, Hispanic and black women.
There are a number of negative impacts an arrest can have on a person’s life, such as difficulty in gaining employment, housing, admission to college. Moreover, an arrest record also affects civic rights and privileges such as voting or adoption and can even damage personal relationships.
“Arrest is public information. The consequences are severe and get more severe when they turn into a conviction,” Brame said. “As a society, we need to think about the consequences of arresting somebody when they’re young. I think we underestimate the baggage this creates for people when they’re making the transition from adolescent to adult.”
The figures in this study also lead to an important follow-up question: Why are so many young people being arrested?
According to Brame, “Higher arrest records as time goes on are partly due to the presence of police officers in schools and greater likelihood that crimes such as domestic violence are reported more than they were in the past. A school-to-prison pipeline means that with officers in schools there are more arrests in and around school property for lots of minor offenses. There is a tendency to police things in the schools that maybe would have been handled informally in the past.”