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Jan 21, 2014 09:26 AM EST

Nearly 50 Percent of Black Men Face Arrest By Age 23, Survey

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About 50 percent of black men, 44 percent for Hispanic men and 40 percent of white men are taken into custody for a non-traffic offense, at least once, by the time they turn 23, according to a survey by criminologists at the University of South Carolina and the University at Albany. When it comes to women, 20 percent of blacks, 18 percent of whites and 16 percent of Hispanics are arrested.

The findings are based on the annual federal survey of 7,000 young people from 1997 to 2008 on a wide-range of issues including instances of being handcuffed for other issues besides a traffic crime. Self-reported crimes included underage drinking and violent assaults among others.

"A problem is that many males - especially black males - are navigating the transition from youth to adulthood with the baggage and difficulties from contact with the criminal justice system," Robert Brame, University of South Carolina criminology professor, said in a press release.

"Criminal records that show up in searches can impede employment, reduce access to housing, thwart admission to and financing for higher education and affect civic and volunteer activities such as voting or adoption. They also can damage personal and family relationships."

Shawn Bushway, a University at Albany criminologist said that treating them as hardcore criminals is just wrong.

The researchers also found that by the age of 18, 30 percent of black men, 26 percent of Hispanic men and 22 percent of white men are taken into custody.

A similar survey was conducted in 1967, where researchers at that time banked on data reported to the FBI. They found that by age 23, 34 percent of men might have been arrested at least once. The recent survey revealed this figure to actually be 40 percent. While the decade-old survey suggested 22 percent of people were handcuffed at least once on a non-traffic-related offense by the age of 23, the new study estimates that to be 30 percent.

Kai Smith, a 44-year-old head of a New York City gang diversion group, said that his first arrest came when he was around 12 or 13 for jumping a subway turnstile. Later, he spent 16 years in state prison for drug possession.

"It's really damaging ... putting handcuffs on a child at 12, 13 or 14 years old," Smith said. "Even for something like jumping a turnstile, those acts have ripple effects that can be catastrophic," Abc reports.

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