Washington University reported that prior estimates of annual incarceration costs of 80 billion is not even close to the actual price of our jails and prisons.
Carrie Pettus-Davis, Director of the Washington University’s Concordance Institute for Advancing Social Justice and a co-author of the study, stated, “We find that for every dollar in corrections costs, incarceration generates an additional $10 in social costs…”
The United States has the most inmates of any country–approximately five percent of the world’s population, but almost twenty five percent (2.2 million) of its inmates. This statistic does not include the 7 million on probation or on parole.
The original estimate of 80 billion did not include the devastation upon the children and families of the incarcerated. Researchers at Washington University estimated that families of inmates lose annually, almost $70 billion in wages. To make it worse, employed released inmates,lose another $230 billion in reduced earnings (employment discrimination, etc.) over the course of their lifetime.
The children of inmates suffer the most. Inmate’s children are five times more likely to go to prison than their peers. They’re are stigmatized, suffer long-term emotional issues, and have behavioral challenges. Studies show that inmate’s children have a greater chance of living in poverty, instability at home, and living homeless.
A large number of inmate’s teenage children leave school and join the labor force to make up for lost family income, caused by the imprisonment of the parent. The incarcerated have triple the divorce rate of defendants, who are convicted of a crime, but not imprisoned. Costs involving inmate’s children exceeds $185 billion.
Released inmates have a mortality rate 3.5 times higher than individuals, who have never been incarcerated. Their shortened life spans, adds almost $63 billion to the annual cost of incarceration.
The American system of justice is broken, and the only answer is reform.