Police forces across the United States make 10.5 million arrests each year and many of them are unnecessary, according to a new study from the Vera Institute of Justice.
The study says most arrests in New York and elsewhere are not over serious crimes but are for offenses like drug possession, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, which could be effectively handled by other means rather than incarceration.
Massive number of arrests leads to overcrowded jails
Local jails across the country held 745,200 inmates in 2017, which represented a small reduction from 2005. However, the Vera study cites FBI and U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics which show for every 100 people arrested, 99 spent time in jail in 2016. The ratio 25 years earlier was much lower when there were 70 jail admissions for every 100 arrests.
Arrests continue to have a severe impact on minorities
The study confirmed a disparity over the race of those arrested which has been consistent for the past 15 years, showing African Americans are arrested at more than twice the rate of white people. In 2016, the numbers showed:
- African American arrests: 5,313 per 100,000
- White suspects arrested: 2,444 per 100,000
Additionally, arrest data from 1997 to 2008 shows nearly half of all black men have an arrest record by age 23.
Why do arrests increase while crime rates decline?
Vera’s research shows there are several factors why jail admissions have increased even though crime rates have gone down. The study concludes many police departments measure an officer’s performance by the number of stops and arrests they make and the number of tickets they issue. Police departments may also choose to arrest people to seize their assets under forfeiture laws and generate fines to increase revenue for cities.
Seek legal advice if you are arrested for a crime
An experienced criminal defense attorney here in New York will work to protect your constitutional rights if you are charged with a crime. Your attorney will review all the facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest, including whether the officer had probable cause and if you were properly advised of your rights before an arrest was made.