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Land Of The Free? Nearly A Third Of Americans Will Be Arrested By Age 23

How can the U.S. be considered 'the land of the free' when over 70 million of its people have criminal records and 8% of its populations are felons with reduced rights?

8% of the U.S. population are felons

A recent University of Georgia study asserts that felons make up 8% of the U.S. population but 33% of the African-American population. 3% of all Americans have served time in prison while 15% of African-Americans have served time in prison.

By age 23, 1/3 Americans will have been arrested

Regardless of race or gender, researchers estimate that by age 23 nearly one in three Americans will have been arrested. In 1965, the last time published estimates for this rate were tabulated; the rate was 22%. (see Christensen (1967)) While the probability of a person being arrested by age 16 is roughly the same today as it was 50 years ago, by age 19 the probabilities begin to significantly diverge. As a result, a young adult today is 36 percent more likely to be arrested than their parents’ 1960s cohort. (NYU Brennan)

19 million people in the U.S. have a felony conviction.

Because the U.S. does not maintain a registry of data on people with felony convictions, researchers calculated estimates based on year-by-year data, and used demographic methods to estimate the numbers of deaths and re-incarceration to establish a number for each state and year. The study estimates that as of 2010 there were 19 million people in the U.S. that have a felony record, including those who have been to prison, jail or on felony probation. (Science Daily)

To put numbers in perspective.

America now houses roughly the same number people with criminal records as it does four-year college graduates. Nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males are arrested by the age 23. If all arrested Americans were a nation, they would be the world’s 18th largest. Larger than Canada. Larger than France. More than three times the size of Australia. (NYU Brennan)

Why are so many people in prison and/or felons?

Broader explanations for growth trends center on policy responses that occurred as a part of the war on drugs and other sentencing changes beginning in the 1970s that increased the likelihood of incarceration and criminal justice supervision. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws, truth in sentencing laws, and the three-strikes law, for example, increased the population in prisons. Political dynamics resulting in more aggressive enforcement and zealous prosecution contribute to higher rates of felony convictions, but also play a role in efforts to reduce prison populations. (Science Daily )

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