A recent study shows, that more African Americans have been arrested by the age of 23, than any other race. Almost 40% of white males in the U.S. have served time in jail by the age of 23. These numbers are based on different offenses, such as truancy, underage drinking, plus more serious and violent offenses, but not including minor traffic violations.
The study also points out that these arrests can have a negative effect on your life. It can reduce access to housing, hold you back when trying to apply for work, getting financial aid for school, and participate fully in your communities like voting or adoption.
Youth Radio interviewed Dr. Michael Turner, one of the authors on the study, to talk about the significance of the study and if some of the findings surprised him.
Youth Radio: What was the purpose and reaching goal of this study?
Michael Turner: The purpose was simply to educate the public about how the cumulative prevalence of arrest varies across categories of sex and race. Our prior work investigated this same question without dis-aggregation and we received several questions about how it varies across race and sex. As such, we engaged in an effort to educate the public in this regard.
YR: Did the findings of your study surprise you?
MT: They did not really surprise us. When you examine various sources of crime measurement (i.e., official statistics, self-report studies, victimization studies) most of the work that has been done documents a substantial difference across race. Our study just uses a slightly different measurement to come to the same conclusion.
YR: Why did you focus on 23 as your cut off age?
MT: At the time of the first study, age 23 was the oldest age for which we had complete information on the study population. This is a longitudinal data set and the individuals are a bit older now.
YR: What crimes were the most common from the people you surveyed?
MT: We have received this question several times and unfortunately we did not examine the crimes for which these individuals were arrested. All we know is that they were arrested for crimes that were more significant than minor traffic violations.
YR: It was said in the read that youth get locked up because they have to transition to adulthood, What changes are being made in their life to lead them to incarceration?
MT: Individuals get locked up at all ages. I do not think there is anything specific that happens at adulthood that increases their probability of getting arrested. What might happen is that youths graduate to engaging in more serious criminal offenses which increases the probability of incarceration.
YR: Anything you want to add that I may not have asked?
MT: Arrest is a serious marker that has been known to impact a variety of subsequent factors (i.e., employment, housing, education, friendships, etc). We encourage folks to be mindful of the behaviors they engage in and the impact that an arrest for these behaviors might have as they mature.