According to a study published in "Crime and Delinquency," (pdf of the study in question) almost half of black men (49%) have been arrested for non-traffic related incidents by the time they turn 23. The comparable figure for Hispanics is 44%. For white men, the figure is 38%.
Now wait, think I, these are astonishingly high figures, catastrophically high for every group, most especially for black males, but in no way are they "better" for Hispanics or whites; arrest rates bordering on 40% or more are simply insane.
What kind of society are we producing in which so many men between the ages of 18 and 23 are arrested and placed in custody, regardless of their color or ethnicity?
The abstract of the study by University of South Carolina researchers Robert Brame, Shawn D. Bushway, Ray Paternoster, and Michael G. Turner titled
Demographic Patterns of Cumulative Arrest Prevalence by Ages 18 and 23
states as follows:
In this study, we examine race, sex, and self-reported arrest histories (excluding arrests for minor traffic violations) from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97; N = 7,335) for the period 1997 through 2008 covering cumulative arrest histories through ages 18 and 23. The analysis produces three key findings: (a) males have higher cumulative prevalence of arrest than females and (b) there are important race differences in the probability of arrest for males but not for females. Assuming that the missing cases are missing at random (MAR), about 30% of Black males have experienced at least one arrest by age 18 (vs. about 22% for White males); by age 23 about 49% of Black males have been arrested (vs. about 38% for White males). Earlier research using the NLSY97 showed that the risk of arrest by age 23 was 30%, with nonresponse bounds [25.3%, 41.4%]. This study indicates that the risk of arrest is not evenly distributed across the population. Future research should focus on the identification and management of collateral risks that often accompany arrest experiences.These are appalling statistics that demonstrate as clearly as anything could that the United States is a desperately over-policed and under-socialized country in which the basic social contract simply does not apply -- especially if you are a young male, and most especially if you are a young black male.
I'm familiar with the self-reporting characteristics of such longitudinal studies, and from what I know, self-reporting tends to be accurate within the framework of the study, whereas crime and arrest reports from law enforcement agencies often contain more detail but may be inaccurate and incomplete overall. Consequently, a study of this sort is liable to be more accurate and complete overall than law enforcement agency statistics, though its detail may not be a fine.
Regarding the high rate of arrest for young black males, we need to recognize that there was an implicit trade off for the granting of civil rights to Negroes back in the day: they would be subjected to intense and unrelenting policing leading to large numbers of arrests and the imprisonment of large numbers of black males (especially, though black women have not been entirely immune) until such time as Authority deems Negroes are sufficiently "civilized" to be left to their own devices. A similar trade off occurred with Hispanic males. The trade-off for young white males was not all that different (let's not forget the panic over "juvenile delinquency" back in the '40s and '50's), it just happened earlier, and so the process lightening up on the oppression has gone on a bit longer.
Still, these are god-awful statistics, so appalling that anyone with a conscience would ask WTF?
And they go far to explain the astronomically high incarceration rates the United States has.
We owe ourselves, our young men, and the world much better.