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September 29, 2010

New report from Pew on incarceration's collateral costs

As detailed in this press release, the folks at The Pew Chartiable Trusts have produced a notable new report titled "Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility."  The full report is available at this link, and here are highlights from the press release:

Incarceration reduces former inmates’ earnings by 40 percent and limits their future economic mobility, according to a new Pew report, Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility. This is a growing challenge now that 1 in every 28 children in America has a parent behind bars, up from 1 in 125 just 25 years ago....

“Pew’s past research shows a variety of factors influence economic mobility both within a person’s lifetime and across generations. This report finds that incarceration is a powerful determinant of mobility for both former inmates and their children,” said Scott Winship, research manager of the Economic Mobility Project of Pew’s Economic Policy Group.

Incarceration’s long-term economic repercussions are felt by increasing numbers of families and communities now that 2.3 million Americans are behind bars, equaling 1 in 100 adults. Up from 500,000 in 1980, this marks more than a 300 percent increase in the United States’ incarcerated population.

Collateral Costs details the concentration of incarceration among men, the young, the uneducated and African Americans. One in 87 working-aged white men is in prison or jail compared with 1 in 36 Hispanic men and 1 in 12 African American men. Today, more African American men aged 20 to 34 without a high school diploma or GED are behind bars (37 percent) than are employed (26 percent).

The report also shows more than 2.7 million minor children now have a parent behind bars, or 1 in every 28.  For African American children the number is 1 in 9, a rate that has more than quadrupled in the past 25 years.

According to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, improving employment prospects can decrease the chances that ex-offenders will return to prison or jail.  In previous reports, Pew identified policies that research shows can reduce recidivism and minimize the intergenerational impact of incarceration by boosting the chances that ex-offenders will successfully rejoin the community and the labor market.

September 29, 2010 at 01:31 PM | Permalink


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When data is presented without intelligent balance by data for another view, that has a name, propaganda. I hope to get Prof. Berman to at least label these reports, Warning, Left Wing Garbage Propaganda, Needs Balance.

The high incarceration rate coincided with a 40% drop in crime victimization rate. What is the economic and collateral value of the crimes not committed? Well, the drop just happened to coincide with a time of great productivity, expansion of the economy, and real enrichment of every segment of the economy. How of the left wing crazy people here would rather be a rich person in the 1920's or the 1820's rather than the poorest person in the United States in 1994? In terms of everything, including the quality of housing, you would be better off the poorest person in the US of 1994 than the richest person of 1920.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 29, 2010 7:53:36 PM

From reading the press release, this appears to be an unbalanced, result-oriented report that raises more questions than it answers. I would not dispute that we can make incremental reductions in our prison population. But those changes should be made based on facts not fairy tales.

The report advances the proposition that the justice system snags working people from their families, incapacitates them, and renders them unable to find work and support their family in the future. Specifically, Pew reports that "two-thirds of male inmates were employed and more than half were the primary source of financial support for their children."

The above statistics are highly questionable. How was the term "employed" used? Was it self-reported or independently verified? Did sporadic, under-the-table work with an uncle detailing cars qualify as gainful employment?

Most offenders are not gainfully employed at the time of arrest nor are they interested in a 9-5 job. They are content to "game " the system and pick up some fast money with a minimum of effort. Further, with a non-marital birthrate exceeding 70 percent in the inner city, it doesn't wash that more than 50 percent of offenders were the primary source of financial support for their progeny.

Posted by: mjs | Sep 30, 2010 3:39:10 PM

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