Over half of $1.2 trillion mass incarceration costs fall on families, communities – study

By on September 13, 2016

(RT) Imprisoning millions of Americans comes at a cost, and not just for local, state and federal government budgets. A new study finds society itself is missing out on more than $1 trillion, mostly impacting the family members and communities of the incarcerated.

“For every dollar in corrections spending, there’s another 10 dollars of other types of costs to families, children and communities that nobody sees because it doesn’t end up on a state budget,” Michael McLaughlin, a doctoral student and certified public accountant, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

McLaughlin is the lead researcher for “The Economic Burden of Incarceration in the US,” a study recently conducted by Washington University in St. Louis. Along with a team of researchers, he and Carrie Pettus-Davis, a co-director for the Smart Decarceration Initiative and director of the Concordance Institute for Advancing Social Justice, both Washington University-based, determined that the “annual economic burden” of US incarceration is an estimated $1.2 trillion, according to The Source, a Washington University publication.

The $1.2 trillion figure is nearly 6 percent of GDP and is 11 times the cost of what governments pay for corrections, the study reports, based on 22 costs from three categories: “costs of corrections,” “costs borne by incarcerated persons,” and “costs borne by families, children, and communities.”

Aside from the $91.1 billion spent by governments on corrections, the “societal” expenditures are being totaled for the first time, the study authors claim.

Inmates miss out on about $70.5 billion in wages every year while behind bars, and in their lifetimes, they are likely to give up $230 billion, due to employment restrictions and discrimination, the researchers concluded.


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