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People With Disabilities More Likely to Be Arrested

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

People With Disabilities More Likely to Be Arrested

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). People With Disabilities More Likely to Be Arrested. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 2 Dec 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.