Posted on 2/22/2013 5:36 PM
“Why are so many American families trapped in poverty?”
That’s a question the New York Times asked this week in a featured article in the Science section.
A big part of that answer seems to be our nation’s mass incarceration.
The article explained: “The shift to tougher penal policies three decades ago was originally credited with helping people in poor neighborhoods by reducing crime. But now that America’s incarceration rate has risen to be the world’s highest, many social scientists find the social benefits to be far outweighed by the costs to those communities.”
The impact is staggering. Look at the data from the article:
-- “Among African-Americans who have grown up during the era of mass incarceration, one in four has had a parent locked up at some point during childhood. For black men in their 20s and early 30s without a high school diploma, the incarceration rate is so high — nearly 40 percent nationwide — that they’re more likely to be behind bars than to have a job.”
-- “Epidemiologists have found that when the incarceration rate rises in a county, there tends to be a subsequent increase in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy, possibly because women have less power to require their partners to practice protected sex or remain monogamous.”
-- “When researchers try to explain why AIDS is much more prevalent among blacks than whites, they point to the consequences of incarceration, which disrupts steady relationships and can lead to high-risk sexual behavior. When sociologists look for causes of child poverty and juvenile delinquency, they link these problems to the incarceration of parents and the resulting economic and emotional strains on families.”
The Service Network for Children of Inmates certainly knows the effects of parental incarceration on children. But it’s extraordinary how deep mass incarceration hurts communities as a whole, through the spread of diseases, chronic unemployment, and crippling poverty.
You agree? Can you offer any realistic solutions?
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