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Incarceration's Effect on Economic Mobility

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Incarceration's Effect on Economic Mobility - by Stephen Lendman

The Pew Charitable Trusts "uses public opinion polling and other research tools to produce reports that track important issues and trends." Its new report is titled, "Collateral Costs: Incarceration's Effect on Economic Mobility," focusing on America's burgeoning prison population and enormous cost. Now over $50 billion annually, it "consum(es) 1 in every 15 general fund dollars." 

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The nation spends recklessly on harshness, leaving little  little left for society's needs. No wonder Pew found that people today are worse off than their parents at the same age, and "42 percent of Americans whose parents were in the bottom fifth of the income ladder remain there themselves as adults." As for race, Americans of color, especially Blacks, fare significantly worse than whites.

Pew studied the relationship between incarceration and mobility, asking to what extent does it create lasting impediments to economic progress. Overall, how does America's burgeoning prison population affect the American dream?  Negatively, in fact, for the vast majority because authorities make it so.

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The Growth, Scale and Concentration of Incarceration in America

Over 2.4 million prisoners are in federal and state facilities, local jails, Indian, juvenile and military ones, US territories, and numbers held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities (ICE). Half are for nonviolent offenses, many for political activism, and thousands there are immigrant Latinos forced north because NAFTA destroyed their livelihoods and way of life. They're now persecuted ruthlessly by a repressive nation.

Today, America's prison population is the world's largest, exceeding China's at four times the population and the top 35 European countries combined. It wasn't by accident. It followed the last 30 year shift to the right, the war on drugs, get tough on crime policies, three strikes and you're out, a guilty unless proved innocent mentality, and overall judicial unfairness. It's especially impacted society's poor and disadvantaged, people of color mostly, comprising two-thirds of those imprisoned.

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As a result, "Incarceration has become a prominent American institution with substantial collateral consequences for families and communities, particularly among the most disadvantaged." Black male high school dropouts are especially impacted. Over one-third aged 20 - 34 are behind bars, three times the rate for whites in the same category.

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