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Nearly 50% of black men, 40% of white men arrested before age 23, study finds

| Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, 5:24 p.m.

NEW YORK — Almost 50 percent of black men and 40 percent of white men are arrested at least once on non-traffic-related crimes by the time they turn 23, according to a study.

One of the authors of the study published this month in the journal Crime & Delinquency said the statistics could be useful in shaping policy so that people aren't haunted by arrests when they apply for jobs, schools or public housing.

“Many, many people are involved with the criminal justice system at this level,” said Shawn Bushway, a University at Albany-SUNY criminologist. “And treating them all as if they're hardened criminals is a serious mistake.”

The peer-reviewed estimates didn't rely on arrest records but instead on an annual federal Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of about 7,000 young people who answered questions each year from 1997 to 2008 on a range of issues — including if they had been taken into custody for something other than a traffic offense.

Self-reported crimes ranged from underage drinking to violent assaults.

The authors found that by age 18, 30 percent of black men, 26 percent of Hispanic men and 22 percent of white men have been arrested. By 23, those numbers climb to 49 percent for black men, 44 percent for Hispanic men and 38 percent for white men.

Among women, 20 percent of blacks, 18 percent of whites and 16 percent of Hispanics were arrested at least once by age 23.

Further research on the arrests, convictions and recidivism rates are in the works, said the study's co-author, University of South Carolina criminology professor Robert Brame.

“Among criminologists, I don't think they're that surprised or alarmed by the findings,” Brame said. “The alarm and concern is among people not as familiar with the patterns.”

Kai Smith, 44, who heads a New York City gang diversion group, said he was arrested at age 12 or 13 for jumping a subway turnstile.

He later went on to serve 16 years in state prison for drug possession.

“It's really damaging ... putting handcuffs on a child at 12, 13 or 14 years old,” he said. “Even for something like jumping a turnstile, those acts have ripple effects that can be catastrophic.”

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