Nearly half of all black men and four in ten white men have been arrested for a non-traffic-related crime by the age of 23, according to a new study.
The study published in "Crime & Delinquency" journal comes from criminal justice professors who studied data collected annually from a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey between 1997 and 2008, and found that while there were differences between the arrest rates of males across race, those gaps virtually disappeared among females.
By the age of 18, about three in ten black men, one in four Hispanic men and just over one in five white men reported a prior arrest. By 23, those numbers climbed to 49% for black men, 44% for Hispanic men, and 38% for white men.
Women reported significantly lower arrest rates, with 20% of black women, 16% of Hispanic women, and 18% of white women recording at least one arrest by the age of 23.
The researchers say the findings are unlikely to surprise anyone familiar with the field of subject.
“Among criminologists, I don’t think they’re that surprised or alarmed by the findings,” University of South Carolina criminology professor Robert Brame told the Associated Press. “The alarm and concern is among people not as familiar with the patterns.”
In their report, the researchers said they hope that the data will help put a greater focus on the "collateral risks that often accompany arrest experiences" including job searches and school applications.
“Many, many people are involved with the criminal justice system at this level,” University at Albany criminologist Shawn Bushway told the AP. “And treating them all as if they’re hardened criminals is a serious mistake.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken steps to address that issue, proposing to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, which would keep younger non-violent offenders in the juvenile court system rather than adult courts.
"Our juvenile justice laws are outdated," he said. "It’s not right, it’s not fair – we must raise the age."
President Obama, who has acknowledged that his own youth was checkered with indescretions, addressed the issue of how brushes with the criminal justice system can make it harder for many young Americans to find jobs later in life at a town hall event in Ohio in 2010.
"I'm 29 years old, and I've never had a job in my life," said an audience member who identified himself as Jerome. "I went to jail when I was younger. It's like hard to get a job as a felon. Is this -- any programs that hire people with felonies like something that -- because it's sad, it's like -- 29 years old, I'm 29."
"There are people who've made mistakes, particularly when they're young, and it is in all of our interests to help them redeem themselves and then get on a straight path," the president responded. "Now, I don't blame employers obviously for being nervous about hiring somebody who has a record. It's natural if they've got a lot of applicants for every single job that that's a question that they'd have in their minds. On the other hand, I think one of the great things about America is we give people second chances."
He touted his support for the Second Chance Act, which helps fund programs focused on reintegrating of ex-felons back into mainstream society.
"It's smart for us to do," he added. "Sometimes people say, well, that's just coddling people. No; you reduce the recidivism rate, they pay taxes, it ends up being smart for taxpayers to do."