Nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the U.S. are arrested by age 23, according to a new report.
The study released in the journal Crime & Delinquency analyzed information on how the risk of arrest varies across race and gender, looking at national survey data from 1997 to 2008 of young adults and their arrest histories.
The arrests include everything from truancy and underage drinking to more serious and violent offenses.
“In particular, the research points to a higher prevalence of arrest among Black males and little race variation in arrest rates among females,” said Robert Brame, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina and lead author of the study.
“A problem is that many males – especially Black males – are navigating the transition from youth to adulthood with the baggage and difficulties from contact with the criminal justice system.”
Brame says the negative impacts can be great, with arrest records affecting young adults abilities to find work, access to housing, going to school and volunteer activities in the community.
The study found that by age 18, 30 percent of Black males, 26 percent of Hispanic males and 22 percent of white males have been arrested. By age 23, 49 percent of Black males, 44 percent of Hispanic males and 38 percent of white males have been arrested.
The study, a representative sample of the larger population, builds on previous research by the team that was released in January 2012 in the journal Pediatrics. That study garnered national attention for providing the first look since the 1960s at arrest prevalence and for its key finding that one in three people are arrested by age 23.
Rachel Herzing, co-director of the national advocacy organization Critical Resistance, says that the results of the study are not surprising to her, especially when communities of color are the primary targets for these types of arrests.
“The justice system is set up to control particular segments of the population and continue the prison industrial complex with the belief that caging young people makes us safer,” said Herzing, who is based in the Bay Area.
“Black men in particular have been the primary target of that system in various situations. The City of Oakland invests more in policing than they do in programs that employ restorative justice practices and mediation,” she added.
Herzing says there are a variety of constructive programs in the Bay Area that engage, youth, such as Eastside Arts Alliance and Cultural Centers’ after school and summer programs, which encourage teens to express themselves through art, dance, and theater classes.
“We should be investing in our youth instead of looking for more ways to lock them up, because that will not solve the problem,” said Herzing.