Young people with disabilities more likely to be arrested

More than half of blacks in the U.S. with disabilities will be arrested by the time they reach their late 20s, a new study finds.

In general, people with mental or physical disabilities were 13 percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles or young adults than people free of disability, according to the report in the American Journal of Public Health.

For blacks, disability widened the chances of arrest by 17 percent, and more than 55 percent of blacks with disabilities were arrested by age 28.

Author Erin J. McCauley, a policy analysis and management doctoral student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, called the arrest rate for blacks with disabilities “horrifyingly high.”

“It almost makes the experience of arrest fundamental to the experience of being black and having a disability, when more than half of the group experiences arrest,” she said in a phone interview.

She called for policies to be changed and interventions to be developed to address increased vulnerabilities facing racial minorities with disabilities. Police training emphasizing de-escalation and minimizing the use of force might better protect vulnerable community members, she said.

Using data from a national survey of nearly 9,000 Americans born between 1980 and 1984, McCauley estimated the cumulative probably of arrest by age 28 for people who considered themselves, or whose parents considered them, disabled. Disabilities ranged from blindness, deafness, missing a body part or having an emotional or learning problem.

Nearly one-third of those surveyed had been arrested by age 28. For those with disabilities, the chances of being arrested rose to 43 percent, but the risk fell disproportionately on young people of color.

Blacks with disabilities were at greatest risk of arrest, nearly double the 28 percent risk of whites with disabilities. More than 46 percent of Hispanics with disabilities could expect to be arrested as children or young adults, the study found.


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