Tougher drug laws mean nearly 1/3 arrested by age 23

Article by David Edwards.

Minority arrested for drugs at 2008 parade (Flickr/Jimmy Smith)

Nearly one in three Americans will already have been arrested by the age of 23, recent research suggests.

A study analyzing data from the federal government’s National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that 30.2 percent of 23-year-olds reported being arrested for something more serious that a traffic violation.

It’s the first time since the 1960s that researchers have tried to determine how often young people are arrested. A similar study in 1965 found that only 22 percent reported being arrested by age 23.


“I was astonished 44 years ago,” Carnegie Mellon University professor Alfred Blumsteintold USA Today. “There’s a lot more arresting going on now.”

Researchers believe that a toughening of drug laws and the increased size of police forcescontribute to the the increase. Five times more Americans are incarcerated now than in the 1960s.

University of North Carolina, Charlotte professor of criminal justice Robert Brame, who authored the latest study, hopes that his research will assist physicians at identifying at-risk youth.

“We know that arrest occurs in a context,” Brame explained to The New York Times. “There are other things going on in people’s lives at the time they get arrested, and those things aren’t necessarily good.”

The study will be published Monday in Pediatrics.

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