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June 16, 2003

Sacramento’s ‘Joe Arrestee’
breaks some stereotypes

Full report

He’s 31, completed high school and has a 53 percent chance of having a job. More likely than not, he drank heavily or used marijuana recently.

“He” – according to a new report by researchers at California State University, Sacramento – is the average male booked in Sacramento County Jail over the last three years.

If you think you know all about him, you’re probably wrong. In fact, the researchers say the average Sacramento County male arrestee defies many stereotypes and is much more “grounded” in the community than most people would expect.

At 31, he’s older than many would assume. He’s more educated, with a 75 percent chance of having completed at least high school. He has only an 11 percent chance of being homeless. He’s probably wasn’t arrested for a violent crime such as rape or murder (5 percent). And while he’s likely to test positive for illegal drug use, that is more likely in property crimes (80 percent) than in violent crimes (67 percent).

The most common reasons for arrest include drug possession, probation/parole violation, spouse/partner abuse, driving while intoxicated, and disturbing the peace.

The researchers looked at male arrestees because they make up 80 percent of the more than 50,000 arrests in the county each year.

“Most of us who live in metro areas carry with us stereotypes about ‘the bad guys,’ and some of these are probably right on the money,” says one of the report’s authors, Joseph Sheley, dean of the CSUS College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies. “But for the most part, we don’t really know. If someone asked us a question about an average arrestee’s education, for instance, we either would not know, or would give the wrong answer. Sometimes it’s helpful to know our area better by understanding who it is who seems to be getting in trouble.”

Sheley co-authored the report along with CSUS sociology professor Jacqueline Carrigan.

The findings are based on three years of data from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program, a long-term federal study of arrestee drug use and other characteristics. The ADAM Sacramento County site is administered by the CSUS Institute for Social Research.

Other findings about male arrestees in Sacramento County include:

  • They are disproportionately non-white (57 percent compared to 38 percent overall in the county).
  • They are much less likely to be married (24 percent compared to 56 percent overall in the county).
  • They are much less likely to have a college education (26 percent compared to 58 percent overall in the county).
  • They are most likely to live in downtown Sacramento (15 percent).
  • 77 percent tested positive for illegal drug use at the time of arrest.
  • 52 percent had drunk heavily in the last month, and 53 percent had used marijuana.
  • 87 percent have a prior arrest record.
  • 61 percent have no health insurance.

The report is available online by following the link from the press release at www.csus.ed/news. Joseph Sheley may be contacted at (916) 278-6504, and Jackie Carrigan may be contacted at (916) 278-6801. Additional media assistance is available by contacting the CSUS public affairs office at (916) 278-6156.

Full report


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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •