A new study found 49 percent of black men are arrested by age 23 and roughly 40 percent of all men have been handcuffed by the same age.
The study, published this month in the journal “Crime & Delinquincy,” reviewed arrest records and annual surveys from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics of roughly 7,000 young men, who answered questions every year from 1997 to 2008. The surveys asked questions about whether they had ever been handcuffed or taken into custody.
By age 18, 30 percent of black men, 26 percent Hispanic men, and 22 percent of white men reported being arrested, The Associated Press reported.
By age 23, 49 percent of black men, 44 percent of Hispanic men, and 38 percent white men had been arrested.
"Among criminologists, I don't think they're that surprised or alarmed by the findings," said study co-author Robert Brame, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina. "The alarm and concern is among people not as familiar with the patterns."
Arrests haunt young people, effecting their ability to find work, take out a loan or get a professional license.
"Many, many people are involved with the criminal justice system at this level," said Shawn Bushway, a University at Albany criminologist. "And treating them all as if they're hardened criminals is a serious mistake."
The arrests of African American youth creates a troubling cycle of crime, says Rev. Dr. Robert Waterman, a pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Brooklyn. A criminal record makes it difficult for teens to find legitimate work.
"It really takes a toll on them and their futures," Rev. Waterman said. "Even the process of getting carried down to the police station — it becomes a custom or pattern that becomes part of their lives."
New York and North Carolina plan to change delinquency laws so that no one is tried in adult court until age 18.
Researchers plan to study convictions and recidivism rates as well.