The Young and the Arrested

By age 23, almost one-third of all people in the U.S. will have been arrested for a crime other than a minor traffic offense, so say the findings of a new study in the journal Pediatrics.

These numbers show a marked increase from a similar study conducted 44 years ago, which found that 22 percent of people had been arrested by age 23.

While the new number (30.2 percent, to be exact)  may seem surprisingly high, keep in mind that it applies only to arrests — not to convictions, and not even to the filing of formal criminal charges. (Learn more about Criminal Charges and How Cases Get Started.) And while there are surely more than a few hardened criminals under the age of 23, the data includes arrests for comparatively minor offenses such as truancy, vandalism, and underage drinking.    

So why are heavy silver bracelets all the rage these days? Some experts are attributing the rise in arrests among young people to factors like the increased prevalence of drug offenses and domestic violence offenses — which were not committed, reported, or acted upon by law enforcement with nearly as much frequency four decades ago (more in this Chicago Sun-Times article). The New York Times points out that this rise in arrests for young adults comes at a time when it’s easier than ever for potential employers to check on criminal histories, so young job applicants may be in for an “arrested development” when it comes to their careers.