Tuesday, December 20, 2011

one-third of young U.S. adults have been arrested: study

Reuters | Close to one in three teens and young adults get arrested by age 23, suggests a new study that finds more of them are being booked now than in the 1960s.

Those arrests are for everything from underage drinking and petty theft to violent crime, researchers said. They added that the increase might not necessarily reflect more criminal behavior in youth, but rather a police force that's more apt to arrest young people than in the past.

"The vast majority of these kids will never be arrested again," said John Paul Wright, who studies juvenile delinquency at the University of Cincinnati's Institute of Crime Science, but wasn't involved in the new study.

"The real serious ones are embedded in the bigger population of kids who are just picking up one arrest," he told Reuters Health.

Though violent crimes might be on the rarer end of the spectrum of offenses, the study's lead author pointed to the importance of catching the early warning signs of criminal behavior in adolescents and young adults, saying that pediatricians and parents can both play a role in turning those youngsters around.

Robert Brame of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and his colleagues analyzed data from a nationally-representative youth survey conducted between 1997 and 2008.

A group of more than 7,000 adolescents age 12 to 16 in the study's first year filled out the annual surveys with questions including if and when they had ever been arrested.

At age 12, less than one percent of participants who responded had been arrested. By the time they were 23, that climbed to 30 percent with a history of arrest.

That compares to an estimated 22 percent of young adults who had been arrested in 1965, from a past study.

"It was certainly higher than we expected based on what we saw in the 1960s, but it wasn't dramatically higher," said Brame.

Arrests in adolescents are especially worrisome, he told Reuters Health, because many repeat offenders start their "criminal career" at a young age.

The researchers said it seems that the criminal justice system has taken to arresting both the young and old more than it did in the past, when fines and citations might have been given to some people who are now arrested.

"If (police) find kids that are intoxicated or they have pulled over someone intoxicated... now, nine times out of 10 they're going to make an arrest," Wright told Reuters Health.

"We do have to question if arrest is an appropriate intervention in all circumstances, or if we need to rethink some of the policies we have enacted."

He pointed out that young people who have an arrest on their record might have more trouble getting jobs in the future. It's one thing if that's because they were involved in a violent crime, he continued, but another if their offence was non-violent, like drinking underage or smoking marijuana.

"Arrest does have major social implications for people as they transition from adolescence to adulthood," Wright said.

While the report didn't ask youth why they had been arrested, Brame said that common offenses in that age group also include stealing, vandalizing and arson.

For most minor offenses, teens and young adults will get a term of probation or another minor penalty, he said. The most serious adolescent offenders and those with a prior record could be prosecuted as adults and end up getting a prison sentence.

Brame said that being poor, struggling in school and having a difficult home life have all been linked to a higher risk of arrest in that age group.

He and his colleagues wrote in Pediatrics on Monday that other warning signs of delinquent behavior include early instances of aggression and bullying, hyperactivity and delayed development.

Pediatricians might be able to recognize those warning signs more clearly than parents, and can point kids toward resources to help keep them out of trouble, such as counseling services, Brame said.

"We urge that parents who are concerned about their kids' well-being, that they get those kids in to see a pediatrician on a regular basis so the pediatrician can do the things they're trained to do."

SOURCE: bit.ly/jsoh2P Pediatrics, online December 19, 2011.


Uglyblackjohn said...

If the laws and policies were the same then as they are now I would have had cause for arrest AT LEAST a hundred times.
Back then it was just 'kids having fun'.

CNu said...

ditto, easily...,

Dale Asberry said...

Wow. I was - am - a true blue straight-and-narrow kid. Of course at the time, I was a zealous conservative Christian on the path to righteousness. Now I'm a hedonistic atheist, lol.

nanakwame said...

Pediatrics?  It better include a communal - family, teachers, peers, spiritual advisory.
The bad boy of yesterday was considered the one who push the envelope and had fun. A bully and gangster were labeled fast and kept away from. The police didn't arrest as today and sent most back home the boys, even in racial fights. There was a relationship between the police and the parents, today it is not there, for the police are militarized. I believe they have now Community Relationship Officers with more educational background.  I still say the introduction of the gun culture, drug posse, and maliciousness;  changed the relationship more, for one time the saying was boys will be boys.  The Authoritarian machine has taken over, and youth must be careful today, as Kafka raised

Ed Dunn said...

We have to be honest here - the high arrest is about money, not justice. If you look at the data, you will notice that the higher arrest rate started occurring when probation fees and collection agencies started  entering the fray. Plenty of poor people have to pay probation over some BS traffic charge and that how they get people.

You go to any mugshot web site and look at what people are getting arrested for and it is 3 or more traffic violations or shoplifting (something very common with young African-American women), not violent crimes.  This is nothing more than pure revenue generation and has little to do with "bad kids" as most kids do not know how to defend themselves in a legal system.

CNu said...

Arguably the so-called war on drugs was driven by exactly the same thing. Federal funds, confiscation and liquidation of assets with proceeds going to the police, and then the disparate application of this local revenue generating activity focused on the unsophisticated low hanging fruit end of the drug business - rather than the more sophisticated and dangerous wholesale and middle-man parts of the supply chain.

A well and tightly orchestrated system whose effects are terribly obvious but about which there was plausible deniability from one end to the other.

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