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Q: What percentage of Americans are arrested in their lifetime? ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: What percentage of Americans are arrested in their lifetime?
Category: Reference, Education and News
Asked by: danabrams-ga
List Price: $21.00
Posted: 20 Jul 2005 16:00 PDT
Expires: 19 Aug 2005 16:00 PDT
Question ID: 545987
What percentage of Americans are arrested in their lifetime?
Out of 100 people how many will have been arrested at least once before they die?

I need a very credible source.
I will be ok with statistics on number of Americans arrested for felonies etc.
But I don't just want info on the number of people convicted or incarcerated.
Thank you.
Subject: Re: What percentage of Americans are arrested in their lifetime?
Answered By: richard-ga on 20 Jul 2005 17:33 PDT
Hello and thank you for your question.

The U.S. Department of Justice  Office of Justice Programs Bureau of
Justice Statistics has the information you are looking for:
Criminal Offenders Statistics

From their summary page:
Lifetime likelihood of going to State or Federal prison 
"If recent incarceration rates remain unchanged, an estimated 1 of
every 15 persons (6.6%) will serve time in a prison during their

Lifetime chances of a person going to prison are higher for 
-- men (11.3%) than for women (1.8%) 
-- blacks (18.6%) and Hispanics (10%) than for whites (3.4%)

Based on current rates of first incarceration, an estimated 32% of
black males will enter State or Federal prison during their lifetime,
compared to 17% of Hispanic males and 5.9% of white males."

Their cited source and update:
Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974-2001
Presents estimates of the number of living persons in the United
States who have ever been to State or Federal prison. Such estimates
include persons in prison and on parole, as well as those previously
incarcerated but no longer under parole supervision. The report also
provides updated estimates of the lifetime chances of going to prison
using standard demographic life table techniques. Such techniques
project the likelihood of incarceration for persons born in 2001,
assuming current incarceration rates continue until their death. Each
of the measures is estimated by age, gender, race, and Hispanic

This report includes updates of data from a previous BJS report,
Lifetime Likelihood of Going to State or Federal Prison.

Highlights include the following:

At yearend 2001, over 5.6 million U.S. adults had ever served time in
State or Federal prison

Of adults in 2001 who had ever served time in prison, nearly as many
were black (2,166,000) as were white (2,203,000). An estimated 997,000
were Hispanic.

If incarceration rates remain unchanged, 6.6% of U.S. residents born
in 2001 will go to prison at some time during their lifetime.

U.S. residents ages 35 to 39 in 2001 were more likely to have gone to
prison (3.8%) than any other age group, up from 2.3% in 1991.

08/03 NCJ 197976 
Press release
Acrobat file (335K)
ASCII file (40K) 
Spreadsheets (zip format 63K)

About the source data
Codebooks & data sets

See also
Georgia Special Report
Hobbling a Generation:Young African American Men in Washington ...

That's it!

Search terms used:
likelihood arrest lifetime

Thanks again for letting us help

Google Answers Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by danabrams-ga on 20 Jul 2005 20:40 PDT
Thanks, but I was hoping for ARREST stats (not conviction and incarceration stats).

I know I didn't offer a big bounty but if you could help me I would appreciate it.

I want to know how many Americans "have a brush with the law" and so
ARREST statistics are gonna be a bigger number than conviction or
incarceration stats.

Clarification of Answer by richard-ga on 21 Jul 2005 05:57 PDT
Hello again.

I have been able to supplement my Answer with the following
information regarding lifetime arrest data.  Thank you for your
patience while I put this together.

Two studies estimate cumulative risks of arrest rather than imprisonment:
Blumstein and Graddy 1983
Tillman 1987

The Blumstein-Graddy Study (1968-1977) 
In 1983, Alfred Blumstein and Elizabeth Graddy examined 1968-1977
arrest statistics from the country's fifty-six largest cities.23
Looking only at felony arrests, Blumstein and Graddy found that one
out of every four males living in a large city could expect to be
arrested for a felony at some time in his lifetime.24 When broken down
by race, however, a nonwhite male was three and a half times more
likely to have a felony arrest on his record than was a white male.25
Whereas only 14% of white males would be arrested, 51 % of nonwhite
males could anticipate being arrested for a felony at some time during
their lifetimes.26
23.See generally Alfred Blumstein & Elizabeth Graddy, Prevalence and
Recidivism Index Arrests: A Feedback Model, 16 LAW & SOC'Y REV. 265
(1981-82). The cities surveyed were: Birmingham, Phoenix, Tucson,
Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San
Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Washington, D.C., Miami, Jacksonville,
Tampa, Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Wichita, Louisville, New
Orleans, Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Kansas
City, St. Louis, Omaha, Newark, Jersey City, Albuquerque, Buffalo,
Rochester, New York, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus,
Toledo, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Portland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh,
Memphis, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Ft. Worth, Austin,
Norfolk, Seattle, Milwaukee, and Honolulu. Id. at 272 n.5.

Blumstein and Graddy did not include misdemeanors, which make up the
largest share of arrests and bookings, in their calculations. Had they
included misdemeanors, the percentage of nonwhite males who could
expect to be arrested and at least briefly jailed would have reached
Blumstein's original prediction of 90%. As appalling as Blumstein's
original numbers seemed, they were confirmed by others over the
ensuing two decades.27
27. See infra notes 28-50 and accompanying text (discussing studies
that confirm Blumstein's finding that 51% of nonwhite males could
anticipate being arrested for felony during their lifetimes).

The Tillman Study (1974-1986) 
In 1987, Robert Tillman, a criminologist assigned to the California
Attorney General's Office, found a similar pattern in arrests of
nonwhite males in California, not over a lifetime but in the short
twelve year span between the ages of eighteen and thirty.28 Drawing
upon a 1974 cohort of eighteen year-old males of all races, Tillman
traced their arrest records between 1974 and 1986, when they turned
thirty. He found that almost one out of four had been arrested.29
However, when he broke the percentages down by race, he discovered
that two-thirds of the nonwhite adult males had been arrested and
jailed before completing their twenty-ninth year (41% for felonies)30

Tillman did not include juvenile arrests or arrests after age
thirty.31 In my opinion, had he included these, the lifetime risk of
arrest likely would have surpassed 85%. Moreover, Tillman drew his
cohort of eighteen year-olds from across the whole state of
California. Tillman included both rural and urban youth, not
exclusively city populations as in the Blumstein-Graddy study. In my
opinion, had he confined his sample only to inner-city minority youth,
the numbers arrested before completing their 29th year would have
approached 80%.
28. See generally Robert Tillman, The Size of the "Criminal
Population": The Prevalence and Incidence of Adult Arrest, 25
CRIMINOLOGY 561(1987).

Some of the data is also summarized here:
Participation rates.? For all offenses, 50-60% (urban) males are
arrested in their lifetime.? For Index Crimes 25% lifetime (14%
whites; 50% blacks)? Recidivism: 85-95%? Frequency rates (Lambda) for
active offenders (arrests in Washington DC & Detroit):? Aggravated
assault: 2-3 arrests per year.? Robbery: 3-5 arrests per year.?
Property offenses: more than 5 per year.? Auto theft: 3 in DC; 9 in

Those studies appear to be all that there is
Subject: Re: What percentage of Americans are arrested in their lifetime?
From: myoarin-ga on 21 Jul 2005 08:08 PDT
WHOA fellow commenters! 

That is not any of our business.  We don't know how valuable an answer
can be for a questioner  - maybe just in time saved.  Danabrams has
asked for a clarification and received one and can make his own
decision if it is satisfactory.


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