A headline-generating study, published in the journal Pediatrics this week, suggests that approximately one in three Americans is arrested before age 23. That’s up from about one in five in 1965, the last time a similar study was conducted. The study used data from surveys given to the 7,335 people who enrolled in the federal government’s National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1996.
This study, a recent joint initiative between the Departments of Justice and Education and a spate of anecdotal stories in the news all suggest a surge in the arrests of minors, and particularly in arrests that originate in schools. But the federal government is both fighting the “school-to-prison” pipeline while continuing to fund the same programs that critics say are causing it. Moreover, because the government hasn’t been collecting data on school-based arrests, and the little available data shows overall arrests of juveniles are down, it’s difficult to determine if a problem exists, much less whether federal initiatives are solving it — or contributing to it.