Forty-four years ago, a study by criminologist Ron Christensen “shocked” America by predicting that in the future, 22% of Americans will have been arrested by the age of 23.
But it seems in the dystopian present, the prognostication has come to pass and then some- as a new study indicates that as many as thirty to forty percent of Americans are arrested at least once by the age of 23 for something other than a traffic violation. The large variance in the current numbers stems from a few factors, one being different definitions of what constitutes an arrest being factored into the stats. Another is that incidents that now result in a criminal record- petty crimes like vandalism, as well as some forms of domestic dispute- used to be handled differently, and laws have evolved to change the way such incidents are processed.
Still, experts say, the change in statistics is not a positive sign. Time explains on their blog:
Although it may seem shocking that at least one-third of U.S. youth has an arrest record, those who study juvenile crime don’t find the figure to be out of line. Since the 1970s, America has become much tougher on crime, lengthening sentences, increasing the police force and quintupling the number of people incarcerated. During that time, the number of Americans in prison has gone from half a million to 2.3 million, with approximately 93,000 incarcerated youth. Given the changes in the criminal justice system, some increase in youth arrests was to be expected.
Researcher Robert Brame suggested making pediatricians aware of early risk factors in order to exercise intervention strategies. Brame also said that arrests were a “pretty common experience.”