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Arrest rates soar despite falling crime

Police departments in Colorado and around the country are arresting people in record numbers despite plummeting crime rates, according to a recent RAND Corporation study. The violent crime rate in the United States has fallen by almost 50% since 1993, but Americans today are far more likely to be taken into custody by the age of 26 than members of previous generations. Almost one in four Americans born between 1979 and 1988 have at least one arrest on their records. Only 6.4% of those born before 1949 have been taken into custody.

The RAND Corporation study also reveals that young people are often arrested for behavior that many people would not even consider criminal. Almost a third of the women arrested each year and 28% of the men are taken into custody for minor misdemeanor offenses. Arrests for underage drinking are especially common. Alcohol consumption by individuals under 21 accounts for 11% of the women and 16% of the men taken into custody each year.

Arrest figures are also becoming more difficult to separate based on race or gender. The rate at which white men are arrested has almost tripled in recent years, and the female arrest rate has surged from about 1% to more than 14%. This trend has experts worried as even a single arrest can cast a long shadow. Individuals with a criminal record find it harder to land a job or rent an apartment, and they tend to earn less money when they do secure employment.

When representing an individual accused of committing a minor offense, a criminal defense attorney may remind prosecutors that the goal of the justice system in these situations should be to rehabilitate rather than punish. Attorneys could encourage prosecutors to show leniency by citing mitigating factors like a previously unblemished record, the support of family members, full-time employment and sincere remorse.

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