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Study reveals soaring youth arrest rates

Law enforcement agencies in Texas and around the country have adopted more aggressive tactics in recent decades, which has led to a rapid rise in the number of young people taken into custody each year according to a study from the RAND Corporation. After scrutinizing data gathered over several decades on thousands of American families, researchers from the California-based think tank found that a young person today is 3.6 times more likely to have been placed under arrest than people in their mid-60s. One of the study's authors remarked that the trend revealed the criminalization of an entire generation.

The rise in arrests encompassed all demographic groups, but researchers noticed particularly sharp increases among women and white men. Today, about one in seven women under the age of 26 have been arrested. That figure was one in a hundred just a few decades ago. The rate at which police arrest white men has almost tripled since the 1980s. The study was published in the March issue of the academic journal Crime & Delinquency.

The Panel Study of Income Dynamics data used by RAND researchers suggests that graduating college and finding a stable and well-paying job may be the best way to avoid being arrested. Men lacking a high school diploma are more than twice as likely to be arrested as men with degrees, and those with at least one arrest on their record earn about $6,000 less per year than individuals who have never been in trouble with the law.

When representing young clients with a previously unblemished record, criminal defense attorneys could urge prosecutors to take a more lenient approach by reminding them of the severe long-term consequences of being convicted of a crime. Attorneys could also cite mitigating factors such as sincere regret over the alleged act and supportive friends and family members.

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