Half of Black Males, 40 percent of White Males Are Arrested by Age 23

Nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the U.S. are arrested by age 23, which can hurt their ability to find work, go to school and be active participants in their communities, according to a new study.

Researchers from several universities looked at U.S, Department of Labor Survey data from 1997 to 2008 on the arrest histories of teenagers and young adults. The reasons for the arrests ranged from skipping school to violent crimes.

“[The study shows 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,” says Robert Brame, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina and the lead author of the study.

“The ramifications of arrests for young adults can be severe,” noted Brame. “Criminal records that show up in searches can impede employment, reduce access to housing, thwart admission to and financing for higher education and affect civic and volunteer activities such as voting or adoption. They also can damage personal and family relationships.”

Key findings of the study include:

  • 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.

Brame says the next step in the research is to develop an understanding of the economic, social and law enforcement factors that can influence arrests and what role gender and race play. “Going forward it will be constructive to support systematic studies into the sources of these variations and to continue efforts to understand the effects of criminal justice interventions and sanctions on future behavior,” said Brame.

Recent surveys have found that juveniles of color in California are also much more likely to encounter the criminal justice system than whites.

According to 2010 data from the State of California Department of Justice, African Americans ages 10-17 have a juvenile felony arrest rate of 42.7 per 1,000 youth, Latinos in that age group have a juvenile felony arrest rate of 12.9 per 1,000 youth and Whites in that age group have a juvenile felony arrest rate of 8.6 or five times lower than African Americans.

The Brame study was published in the journal Crime and Delinquency.  

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