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Arrest rate among young Americans is unacceptably high

Times and attitudes have certainly changed in regard to juvenile crime. In the past, behaviors like underage drinking and experimenting with drugs were regarded as teen mischief or simply the mistakes of youth.

These days, however, juveniles and college-age adults are more likely to be arrested for these same offenses. Although there are certainly differing opinions on which of the two approaches is better, it is clear that being arrested and charged with juvenile crime or drug possession is more likely to negatively impact a young person’s future.

A recent survey from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the youth arrest rate in America is surprisingly high. Based on a survey of approximately 7,000 young people, researchers found that:

  • 30 percent of African-American men have been arrested by age 18, and 49 percent have been arrested by age 23
  • 22 percent of white men have been arrested by age 18, and 38 percent have been arrested by age 23
  • 26 percent of Hispanic men have been arrested by age 18, and 44 percent have been arrested by age 23

These statistics represent individuals who have been arrested at least once for a non-traffic-related offense. Arrest rates for women in these ethnic groups were lower across the board but nonetheless significantly high.

Being arrested and charged with a crime can negatively impact a young person’s future in a number of ways. Depending on the offender’s age and the specific offense, a criminal record can hinder access to higher education, scholarships and the ability to participate in extracurricular activities like sports.

There is also the social stigma that comes with being labeled a “criminal” at a young age. In some cases, teens that get saddled with this reputation become more likely to reoffend as adults.

Simple observation shows (and science confirms) that children and teenagers will make mistakes and will sometimes exercise bad judgment. This is part and parcel with their brain and social development.

But when these mistakes are handled by the criminal justice system, they may follow a young person for the rest of his or her life. If your child is currently facing criminal charges, please make sure that they have the help and advocacy of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Source: The Denver Post, "Study: Nearly half of black men arrested by age 23," Jake Pearson, Jan. 20, 2014

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