🔥🔥🔥 Effects Of Incarceration On African Americans

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Effects Of Incarceration On African Americans



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Incarceration in the United States Decoded - Black Incarceration

Class inequalities in incarceration are reflected in the very low educational level of those in prison and jail. The legitimate labor market opportunities for men with no more than a high school education have deteriorated as the prison population has grown, and prisoners themselves are drawn overwhelmingly from the least educated. State prisoners average just a tenth grade education, and about 70 percent have no high school diploma.

Disparities of race, class, gender, and age have produced extraordinary rates of incarceration among young African American men with little schooling. Figure 1 shows prison and jail incarceration rates for men under age thirty-five in , at the beginning of the prison boom, and in , after three decades of rising incarceration rates. The figure reports incarceration separately for whites, Latinos, and African Americans and separately for three levels of education. Looking at men with a college education, we see that incarceration rates today have barely increased since Incarceration rates have increased among African Americans and whites who have completed high school.

Among young African American men with high school diplomas, about one in ten is in prison or jail. Most of the growth in incarceration rates is concentrated at the very bottom, among young men with very low levels of education. In , around 10 percent of young African American men who dropped out of high school were in prison or jail. By , this incarceration rate had climbed to 37 percent, an astonishing level of institutionalization given that the average incarceration rate in the general population was 0.

Even among young white dropouts, the incarceration rate had grown remarkably, with around one in eight behind bars by The significant growth of incarceration rates among the least educated reflects increasing class inequality in incarceration through the period of the prison boom. These incarceration rates provide only a snapshot at a point in time. We can also examine the lifetime chance of incarceration — that is, the chance that someone will go to prison at some point in his or her life. This cumulative risk of incarceration is important if serving time in prison confers an enduring status that affects life chances after returning to free society.

The lifetime risk of imprisonment describes how many people are at risk of these diminished life chances. We calculated the cumulative chance of imprisonment for two birth cohorts, one born just after World War II, from to , and another born from to Table 1. For each cohort, we calculated the chances of imprisonment, not jail incarceration. Prisons are the deep end of the criminal justice system, now incarcerating people for an average of twenty-eight months for a felony conviction. While there are about ten million admissions to local jails each year — for those awaiting trial or serving short sentences — around seven hundred thousand prisoners are now admitted annually to state and federal facilities.

These cumulative chances of imprisonment are calculated up to age thirty-four. For most of the population, this represents the lifetime likelihood of serving prison time. For the older postwar cohort who reached their mid-thirties at the end of the s, about one in ten African American men served time in prison. For the younger cohort born from to , the lifetime risk of imprisonment for African American men had increased to one in four. Prison time has become a normal life event for African American men who have dropped out of high school. Fully 68 percent of these men born since the mids have prison records.

The high rate of incarceration has redrawn the pathway through young adulthood. The main sources of upward mobility for African American men — namely, military service and a college degree — are significantly less common than a prison record. For the first generations growing up in the post—civil rights era, the prison now looms as a significant institutional influence on life chances.

The ubiquity of penal confinement in the lives of young African American men with little schooling is historically novel, emerging only in the last decade. However, this new reality is only half the story of understanding the significance of mass incarceration in America. The other half of the story concerns the effects of incarceration on social and economic inequality. The inequalities produced by contemporary patterns of incarceration have three characteristics: the inequalities associated with incarceration are invisible to our usual accounting of the economic well-being of the population; the inequality is cumulative, deepening the disadvantage of the most marginal men in society; and finally, the inequality is intergenerational, transmitting the penalties of a prison record from one generation to the next.

Because the characteristic inequalities produced by the American prison boom are invisible, cumulative, and intergenerational, they are extremely enduring, sustained over lifetimes and passed through families. Invisible Inequality. The inequality created by incarceration is often invisible to the mainstream of society because incarceration is concentrated and segregative. We have seen that steep racial and class disparities in incarceration have produced a generation of social outliers whose collective experience is wholly different from the rest of American society.

The extreme concentration of incarceration rates is compounded by the obviously segregative function of the penal system, which often relocates people to far-flung facilities distant from their communities and families. As a result, people in prison and jail are disconnected from the basic institutions — households and the labor market — that dominate our common understanding and measurement of the population. The segregation and social concentration of incarceration thus help conceal its effects. This fact is particularly important for public policy because in assessing the social and economic well-being of the population, the incarcerated fraction is frequently overlooked, and inequality is underestimated as a result. The idea of invisible inequality is illustrated by considering employment rates as they are conventionally measured by the Current Population Survey, the large monthly labor force survey conducted by the Census Bureau.

For groups that are weakly attached to the labor market, like young men with little education, economic status is often measured by the employment-to-population ratio. This figure, more expansive than the unemployment rate, counts as jobless those who have dropped out of the labor market altogether. The Current Population Survey is drawn on a sample of households, so those who are institutionalized are not included in the survey-based description of the population. Figure 2 shows the employment-to-population ratio for African American men under age thirty-five who have not completed high school.

Conventional estimates of the employment rate show that by , around 40 percent of African American male dropouts were employed. These estimates, based on the household survey, fail to count that part of the population in prison or jail. Once prison and jail inmates are included in the population count and among the jobless , we see that employment among young African American men with little schooling fell to around 25 percent by Indeed, by these men were more likely to be locked up than employed.

Cumulative Inequality. Serving time in prison or jail diminishes social and economic opportunities. As we have seen, these diminished opportunities are found among those already most socioeconomically disadvantaged. A burgeoning research literature examining the economic effects of incarceration finds that incarceration is associated with reduced earnings and employment. We analyzed panel data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth NLSY , one of the few surveys that follows respondents over a long period of time and that interviews incarcerated respondents in prison.

The NLSY began in , when its panel of respondents was aged fourteen to twenty-one; it completed its latest round of interviews in Matching our population estimates of incarceration, one in five African American male respondents in the NLSY has been interviewed at some point between and while incarcerated, compared to 5 percent of whites and 12 percent of Latino respondents. Analysis of the NLSY showed that serving time in prison was associated with a 40 percent reduction in earnings and with reduced job tenure, reduced hourly wages, and higher unemployment. The negative effects of incarceration, even among men with very poor economic opportunities to begin with, are related to the strong negative perceptions employers have of job seekers with criminal records.

A criminal record was found to reduce callbacks from prospective employers by around 50 percent, an effect that was larger for African Americans than for whites. Incarceration may reduce economic opportunities in several ways. The conditions of imprisonment may promote habits and behaviors that are poorly suited to the routines of regular work. Time in prison means time out of the labor force, depleting the work experience of the incarcerated compared to their nonincarcerated counterparts. The stigma of a criminal conviction may also repel employers who prefer job applicants with clean records. Employers, fearing legal liability or even just unreliability, are extremely reluctant to hire workers with criminal convictions.

A simple picture of the poor economic opportunities of the formerly incarcerated is given by the earnings mobility of men going to prison compared to other disadvantaged groups. The NLSY data can be used to study earnings mobility over several decades. We calculated the chances that a poor man in the lowest fifth of the earnings distribution in would move up and out of the lowest fifth by Among low-income men who are not incarcerated, nearly two-thirds are upwardly mobile by Figure 3. Another group in the NLSY has very low levels of cognitive ability, scoring in the bottom quintile of the Armed Forces Qualifying Test, the standardized test used for military service. Among low-income men with low scores on the test, only 41 percent are upwardly mobile.

Upward mobility is even less common among low-income high school dropouts. Still, we observe the least mobility of all among men who were incarcerated at some point between and For these men, only one in four rises out of the bottom quintile of the earnings distribution. Intergenerational Inequality. Finally, the effects of the prison boom extend also to the families of those who are incarcerated.

Through the prism of research on poverty, scholars find that the family life of the disadvantaged has become dramatically more complex and unstable over the last few decades. Divorce and nonmarital births have contributed significantly to rising rates of single parenthood, and these changes in American family structure are concentrated among low-income mothers. As a consequence, poor children regularly grow up, at least for a time, with a single mother and, at different times, with a variety of adult males in their households. High rates of parental incarceration likely add to the instability of family life among poor children. Over half of all prisoners have children under the age of eighteen, and about 45 percent of those parents were living with their children at the time they were sent to prison.

About two-thirds of prisoners stay in regular contact with their children either by phone, mail, or visitation. Partly because of the burdens of incarceration on women who are left to raise families in free society, incarceration is strongly associated with divorce and separation. In addition to the forced separation of incarceration, the post-release effects on economic opportunities leave formerly incarcerated parents less equipped to provide financially for their children. New research also shows that the children of incarcerated parents, particularly the boys, are at greater risk of developmental delays and behavioral problems. Against this evidence for the negative effects of incarceration, we should weigh the gains to public safety obtained by separating violent or otherwise antisocial men from their children and partners.

Domestic violence is much more common among the formerly incarcerated compared to other disadvantaged men. Survey data indicate that formerly incarcerated men are about four times more likely to assault their domestic partners than men who have never been incarcerated. Though the relative risk is very high, around 90 percent of the partners of formerly incarcerated report no domestic violence at all. The scale of the effects of parental incarceration on children can be revealed simply by statistics showing the number of children with a parent in prison or jail. Under the leadership of Bill Clinton, Democrats wanted to wrest control of crime issues from Republicans, so the two parties began a bidding war to increase penalties for crime, trying to outdo one another.

The crime bill was a key part of the Democratic strategy to show that it can be tougher-on-crime than Republicans. While Republicans continued their Willie Horton-style fear-mongering that pushed for more punitive policies in the states, the official Democratic Party platform, which was meant to provide a vision for the Democratic Party nationwide, relied heavily on the law to display their tough on crime credentials. An entire section in the platform is dedicated to "tough punishment," taking pride in the fact that the Democratic Party passed tougher sentencing laws and provided more federal funding for prisons in the states. The platform encouraged states to pass truth-in-sentencing laws, bragged about instituting the death penalty for nearly 60 more crimes, and even encouraged the prosecution of young people as adults.

This platform remained largely in place until 12 years later, when in , the tone and substance began to change under new leadership in the party. Coincidentally, incarceration rates peaked in The right way to view the crime bill is as the moment when both parties, at a national level, fully embraced the policies and political posturing that exacerbated the mass incarceration crisis we are trying to fix today. Those running for federal office should pledge to use their power to close prisons once in office. The Campaign. Tags Mass Incarceration Smart Justice. Facebook Twitter Reddit Email Print. Fight for everyone's rights - support the ACLU.

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