By the age of 23, almost 1/3 of Americans have been arrested for some crime, besides a minor traffic violation, according to researchers at University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
The current figure is significantly higher than the 22% found in a 1965 study. The increase may be a reflection of the justice system becoming more punitive and more aggressive in its reach during the last half-century.
The new study is an analysis of data collected between 1997-2008 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Lead author of the study, Robert Brame said, "Arrest is a pretty common experience. The question excluded only minor traffic offenses, so youth could have included arrests for a wide variety of offenses such as truancy, vandalism, underage drinking, shoplifting, robbery, assault and murder any encounter with police perceived as an arrest. Some of the incidents perceived and reported by the young people as arrests may not have resulted in criminal charges."
Robert Brame hopes the research would alert physicians to signs that their young patients were at risk. He said, "If doctors can intervene, it can have big implications for what happens to these kids after the arrest, whether they become embedded in the criminal justice system or whether they shrug it off
and move on."
The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.