Regular readers of our Chattanooga Criminal Law Blog might remember a July post in which we wrote about an ACLU study that showed wide racial disparities across the nation in marijuana arrests. We recently learned of a new criminal justice study with similarly disturbing findings.
According to the Data Collaborative for Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the demographic most likely to be arrested on misdemeanor charges is young Black men.
Three to seven times as many arrests
Even with a decline in misdemeanor arrests in recent years, the study finds that Black people – specifically young Black males, were arrested at a much higher rate than White men in the same age range, with “approximately three to seven arrests of Black people for one arrest of a white person.”
In Tennessee, misdemeanor charges include DUI, simple possession of marijuana, assault, domestic assault and theft.
The researchers have been gathering and analyzing data on low-level law enforcement from seven jurisdictions over the past five years, tracking arrests by race, gender, age and crime types.
The jurisdictions: Los Angeles, Ca., New York City, Durham, NC, Louisville, Ky., Seattle, Wa., Prince George’s County, Md. and St. Louis, Mo.
According to the report, “Black people were arrested at the highest rates of any racial/ethnic group for all jurisdictions across the entire study period.”
Second-highest arrest rate
According to a news report, two of the seven jurisdictions do not track data on Latinx arrests, but the numbers from the others showed that the Latinx arrest rate is second highest.
Researchers also found that misdemeanor arrests are most common among the 18-20 and 21-24 age groups.
Juveniles and gender
Two jurisdictions included data from the 16 to 17 age group. Like the other age groups, the juvenile age group also experienced a decline in misdemeanor arrests over the study period.
When it comes to gender, males were arrested more often than females throughout the study period and across all the jurisdictions.
Males and females both experienced a decrease in arrest rates. Females saw misdemeanor arrests decline by 60 percent decline, while males enjoyed an even steeper decline of 79 percent decrease from the arrest peak to the end of the study.
Types of charges
The Data Collaborative for Justice study also found a general decline in drug-related misdemeanor arrests, while person-related arrests such as assault, harassment and stalking showed increases.
Drug-related busts declined in four of six jurisdictions and stayed steady in the other two jurisdictions. Arrests on person-related charges either increased or stayed the same in all jurisdictions except for Prince George’s County.
Weighing costs and benefits
According to the study’s authors, “more expansive research will enable the public and policymakers to appropriately weigh perceived public safety benefits of misdemeanor arrests against the potential harms that criminal justice involvement inflicts on individuals and their communities.”
There’s little doubt that it can be intimidating and frightening to be arrested and processed by our criminal justice system – especially for young men and women. Those who have experienced it know the importance of fighting for acquittal or the reduction of charges or dismissal of charges to avoid the potential long-term harm of a criminal record.