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The many costs of incarcerating low-level criminal offenders

Our current system of imprisonment costs the U.S. economy $1 trillion annually and over-incarceration ultimately affects American communities and families.

However, an examination of the upswing in prison time for low-level offenders has led to the criminal justice reform movement.

Recidivism issues

The U.S. has the highest per-capita imprisonment rate in the world. A FWD.us and Cornell University study shows that half of all adults in America have had a family member in jail or prison. Little is done to help former prisoners find work and enter society successfully, so many turn to crime once again and do repeat time behind bars.

Family problems

The FWD.us-Cornell report found that two out of three families could not meet the basic needs of daily living while their family member was behind bars. Moreover, prisoners miss out on educational and job opportunities. When released, many former prisoners only find part-time work or low-paying jobs that cannot cover the income requirements of their families. They may resort to criminal behavior, thinking they have no other options, and an increase in crime means neighborhoods that are no longer safe.

State and federal initiatives

The criminal justice reform movement is at work in many areas of the country. In more than 30 states, ongoing efforts show that it is possible to reduce prison populations and reduce crime at the same time. At both state and federal levels the goals are to protect families, enforce public safety, help prisoners prepare for release and make their return to incarceration less likely.

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