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Nearly Half Of All Americans Have A Criminal Record

Arrests are so common, they shouldn’t be considered in an employment context at all

70 million felons is a number we talk about almost daily here at Razor Wire Media and on Twitter. 70 million is the number of felons and with a population of approximately 365,000,000 that’s representative of nearly 25% of the entire population. However a new article published this week by science.org suggests the number of people in the United States with an arrest is closer to half of the population.

The study specifically suggests that nearly half of American men have been arrested by the time they turn 35 which is a huge indicator of a systemic criminal justice problem here in America (land of the free). Because of certain socially expected constructs that’s pushing more and more otherwise exceedingly capable men to the sidelines. “I’m not sure that many people understand just how prevalent an arrest is,” Sarah Esther Lageson, a sociologist from Rutgers University says.

Three major social problems are directly linked; education, criminal justice, and employment. Even in this post Covid would, where jobs are a plenty, convicted felons and people who have only been arrested are being overlooked just based on their arrest or conviction alone.

“It really shows up [that unemployment] is actually a mass criminalization problem. … Because arrests are so common, they shouldn’t be considered in an employment context at all,” Lageson said.

Until recently the data on how many Americans had been refused employment due to an arrest had not been readily available. Amy Solomon the former head of the Federal Interagency Re-Entry Council sought the answer and consulted with Shawn Bushway, an economist and criminologist with RAND corporation to go about finding it. “No one in criminology [had ever] asked … that question,” Bushway said.

Numbers like how many Americans have been arrested are matters of public law. However because they justice system is so incredibly fragmented that information is extremely hard to compile.

“It’s pretty staggering,” Michael Romano, a researcher at Stanford Law who did not participate in the study says. “I would not have guessed that such a high number of people who are unemployed have a criminal background … it’s really eye-opening.”

Of course the next question was is unemployment due to a criminal background also racially disproportionate?

Among survey respondents, Black and Hispanic men were 1.4 times more likely to be arrested than white men, and were 1.8 and 1.2 times more likely to be unemployed, respectively. But what the researchers found surprised them: Although more Black and Hispanic survey participants were unemployed and had a criminal record than their white counterparts, the proportion of the unemployed Black men with criminal records was similar to that of unemployed white men with criminal records. Among the unemployed, 67% of Black men, 58% of Hispanic men, and 65% of white men had been arrested by age 35.

“This is somewhat unexpected, given that Black men experience unemployment and contacts with the criminal justice system at a higher rate than their non-Black counterpart” Lila Kazemiana sociologist at City University in New York said.

Despite the equal opportunity employment act we are accutely aware that racism is prevelant on the hiring process although it seems that discrimination against those who are justice impacted seems to be even greater. “People [with criminal histories] are being segregated into certain jobs and in certain industries, and are unable to advance their careers … many, many years after they have a record,” Bushway said.

It’s clear that something needs to be done to help those with criminal records get gainful employment which is a huge factor in recidivism. Unfortunately when a person with a criminal record can’t find gainful employment they have nowhere to turn but public assistance of of course crime.