The United States has the largest documented prison population in the world, followed by Russia and Rwanda. In 2012, the United States comprised 5% of the global population, but 25% of the world’s prison population. 1 in every 31 adults in the U.S. is under some form of correctional control.
Mass incarceration costs taxpayers over $70 billion each year. Federal expenditure on criminal correction is growing at a faster pace than budgets for other public assistance areas. For example, California alone spent $9.6 billion on prisons in 2011, in contrast to the $5.7 billion dollars it spent on education. But the system isn’t working. The lack of effective support mechanisms for released convicts and punitive post-incarceration sanctions (limited employment opportunities, denied access to federal aid and food stamps, disenfranchisement, and the continued infringement of civic rights) contributes to a recidivism rate of over 67%, which in turn has led to an astronomical incarceration population.
America’s high incarceration rate and its costs to taxpayers are only part of the story. Families and communities across the nation suffer tremendous economic burdens and structural instability when a parent is imprisoned or unable to enter gainful employment upon release. America’s “tough on crime” policy is tearing apart the fabric of our society. Rather than strengthen family and community connections that can and do yield positive benefits for society, the system continues to punish the poor and thwart any hope of breaking free from the cycle of poverty, unemployment, and crime.
Survivors’ Truths and Incarceration
Through the Inside/Out Project, Survivors’ Truths reaches out to those directly affected by our criminal justice system. We aim to help those affected express, in their own words, the struggles they face and to reflect on ways to help strengthen families and local communities.