People With Disabilities More Likely to Be Arrested

A new study has found that people with disabilities — including emotional, physical, cognitive, or sensory disabilities — were nearly 44 percent more likely to be arrested by age 28.

This “disability penalty” was strongest for African-American men, according to a researcher at Cornell University.

Black men with disabilities were at a particularly high risk of arrest: 55 percent had been arrested by age 28.

In contrast, 27.5 percent of whites in the study who had no disability had been arrested by that age, the study found.

“I expected to find that people with disabilities would be more likely to be arrested, but I was frankly shocked by how large the disparity was,” said Erin McCauley, a doctoral candidate in the field of policy analysis and management. “These findings really point to a problem. For people with disabilities, particularly men of color, the experience of arrest is extraordinarily common. They are constantly exposed to this risk.”

Because the types of disability were evenly distributed across all races, the difference in the probabilities of arrest between whites and blacks is likely due to racial discrimination, she said.

The findings have public health implications, she added.

For example, police training should put stronger emphasis on de-escalation, minimizing the use of force, and the role of implicit bias in police interactions, she said.

“Police officers should understand how disabilities may affect compliance and other behaviors, and likewise how implicit bias and structural racism may affect reactions and actions of officers and the systems they work within in ways that create inequities,” she said.

Ensuring high-quality care could decrease how frequently and closely people with disabilities come into contact with the criminal justice system, she added.

“For many with disabilities, quality health care is imperative for positive functioning within the community through increasing access to medication and support services,” she noted.

The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Source: Cornell University