People with disabilities—including emotional, physical, cognitive, or sensory disabilities—were nearly 44% more likely to be arrested by age 28 than their able-bodied counterparts, at 30%, according to a Cornell University study.

This “disability penalty” was strongest for African-American men. By age 28, 55% of African-American men had been arrested by age 28. In contrast, 27.5% of whites in the study who had no disability had been arrested by that age, states a media release from Cornell University.

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

“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,” states author Erin McCauley, a doctoral candidate in the field of policy analysis and management.

“These findings really point to a problem,” she adds. “For people with disabilities, particularly men of color, the experience of arrest is extraordinarily common. They are constantly exposed to this risk.”

And 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 says.

The findings have public health implications, she continues, in the release.

For example, she opines, 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 writes.

In addition, ensuring high-quality care could decrease how frequently and closely people with disabilities come into contact with the criminal justice system, explains.

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

A white paper authored by staff from disability advocacy organization RespectAbility notes that more than 750,000 people with disabilities are currently behind bars in the United States.

A special report about the white paper recently aired on PBS NewsHour.

In addition, per RespectAbility, the US Commission on Civil Rights will hold a public briefing, titled “The Intersection of Students of Color and Students with Disabilities, and School Discipline Policies,” on Friday, December 8, beginning at 9 am EST. The public session will live-stream, and there will be call-in line (listen-only): 800-479-9001, conference ID 8362937.

Those wishing to attend the public briefing in person are advised to RSVP to publicaffairs@usccr.gov.

[Source(s): Cornell University, RespectAbility, Science Daily]