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Who Pays - The True Cost of Incarceration on Families, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, 2015

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The True Cost
of Incarceration
on Families
A national community-driven report
led by the Ella Baker Center for
Human Rights, Forward Together,
and Research Action Design
September 2015

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercialShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Suggested Citation:
Saneta deVuono-powell, Chris Schweidler, Alicia Walters, and Azadeh Zohrabi.
Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families. Oakland, CA: Ella Baker
Center, Forward Together, Research Action Design, 2015.

4

TABLE OF CONTENTS
1

RESEARCH TEAM

7

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

11

INTRODUCTION

12

THE TRUE COSTS OF THE PUNITIVE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

12

Challenges to Meeting Basic Needs

13

Court Fees and Fines

16

Child Support

17

Loss of Family Income

18

Challenges to Building Economic Stability

20

Employment

23

Education

25

Public Benefits

26

Housing

29

Challenges to Maintaining Relationships and Family Stability

29

Costs of Maintaining Contact

31

Family Separation

33

Parent-Child Relationships

37
37
41

Challenges to Health During Incarceration and Beyond
Health Impacts of Incarceration
RECOMMENDATIONS

41

Restructure and Reinvest

43

Remove Barriers

46

Restore Opportunities

49

CONCLUSION

50

RESEARCH DESIGN AND SURVEY DEMOGRAPHICS

57

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

58

ENDNOTES

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

RESEARCH TEAM
COORDINATING ORGANIZATIONS
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, ellabakercenter.org
Azadeh Zohrabi, Maria Dominguez, Darris Young, Zachary Norris, Patrisse Cullors,
Jennifer Kim, and Zaineb Mohammed
The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights advances racial and economic justice to
ensure dignity and opportunity for low-income people and people of color. We
are building a people-powered movement to end mass incarceration, criminalization, and state violence by moving funding away from prisons and punishment and
toward family-driven solutions that improve public health, safety, and prosperity
for all communities.
Forward Together, forwardtogether.org, strongfamiliesmovement.org
Alicia Walters and Eveline Shen
Forward Together is a multi-racial organization that works with community leaders
and organizations to transform culture and policy to catalyze social change. Our
vision is that every family have the rights, recognition, and resources it needs to
thrive. Through movement building that centers women, trans, and gender non-conforming people of color, Forward Together is working to change the way people
think, feel, and act in support of the most marginalized families of all formations.
Research Action Design, rad.cat
Chris Schweidler, Pascal Emmer, and Sasha Costanza-Chock
Research Action Design (RAD) uses community-led research, transformative media
organizing, technology development, and collaborative design to build the power
of grassroots social movements. We are a worker-owned collective. Our projects
are grounded in the needs and leadership of communities in the struggle for justice and liberation.

RESEARCH PARTNERS
BreakOUT!, youthbreakout.org
Wes Ware, Milan Nicole Sherry, Nate Faulk, and Shaena Johnson
(Louisiana) BreakOUT! seeks to end the criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth to build a safer and more just New
Orleans. We build on the rich cultural tradition of resistance in the South to build
the power of LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 25 and directly impacted by the criminal
justice system through youth organizing, healing justice, and leadership development programs.
Causa Justa :: Just Cause, cjjc.org
Rheema Calloway and Jaron Browne
(California) Causa Justa :: Just Cause builds grassroots power and leadership
to create strong, equitable communities. Born through mergers between Black
organizations and Latino organizations, we build bridges of solidarity between
working class communities. Through rights-based services, policy campaigns,
1

1

Research Team

civic engagement, and direct action, we improve conditions in our neighborhoods
in the San Francisco Bay Area and contribute to building the larger multi-racial,
multi-generational movement needed for fundamental change.
Center for Nu Leadership, centerfornuleadership.org
Cory Greene, Divine Pryor, Kyung-Ji Kate Rhee, and Chino Hardin
(New York) The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions influences socio-economic, criminal, and juvenile justice policy by providing research, advocacy, and
leadership training to formerly and currently incarcerated people, their families,
communities, allies, and criminal justice professionals. Our purpose is to increase
public health and safety, reshape the media portrayal and public opinion of people
with criminal records, and promote active participation in criminal and social justice policy decisions, discussions and deliberations by the people whose lives are
most directly affected. The Center is dedicated to creating new paradigms of justice directed towards reducing mass incarceration, mass unemployment, and mass
disenfranchisement in communities of color. We promote the development and use
of “community-specific” and culturally competent models for research inquiry and
public policy formulation from the viewpoint of urban communities most affected.
DC Jobs With Justice, dcjwj.org
Nikki Lewis
(District of Columbia) DC Jobs with Justice is a nonprofit organization dedicated
to advancing and protecting the rights of the Metropolitan Washington DC Area
workers and residents. DC JWJ is a long-term coalition of labor unions, community
organizations, faith institutions, and student groups who work together because
they share the common core value that people are more important than profits.
Direct Action for Rights & Equality (DARE), daretowin.org
John Prince, Sheila Wilhelm, Rachel Bishop, Laura Ucik, Madeline Ray, and Jean
Carbone
(Rhode Island) DARE’s mission is to organize low-income families in communities
of color for social, economic, and political justice.
Dignity and Power Now, dignityandpowernow.org
Carla Gonzales, Marc-Anthony Johnson, Jayda Rasberry, and Alex Alvarez
(California) Dignity and Power Now (DPN) is a grassroots organization based in Los
Angeles that fights for the dignity and power of incarcerated people, their families,
and communities. In doing so DPN wages a fight for all lives because the prison
industrial complex forms an imaginative limit on everyone’s capacity to envision
freedom and liberation. Dignity and Power Now has several projects, including
an activist coalition, an artist collective, a zine, a research and reporting group, a
leadership institute, and even a reentry program inside a state prison. Immediate
campaign focuses include establishing comprehensive and effective civilian oversight of the Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Department and allocating the money
from the two billion dollar jail plan into mental health diversion programs and community health centers.
Essie Justice Group, essiejusticegroup.org
Gina Clayton, Lily Mandlin, and Shamika Wilson
(California) Essie Justice Group (“Essie”) was formed to harness the collective power of women with incarcerated loved ones to build a women-led movement to
end mass incarceration and empower women. By infusing the authentic voices of

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

women impacted by incarceration into advocacy, Essie’s focus is to lift up meaningful, lasting policy alternatives to mass incarceration, expose patriarchy in the
criminal justice system, and mitigate the impact on and bring about the dignified
treatment of women and their families.
Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, fflic.org
Ernest Johnson, Gina Womack, Lillian Tillman, and Troy Robertson
(Louisiana) Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) is a
statewide membership-based organization dedicated to creating a better life for
all of Louisiana’s youth, especially those who are involved or at risk of becoming
involved in the juvenile justice system, and we seek to use education, direct action
organizing, and peer advocacy to build strong, powerful families and communities
and to fight for justice for our children and ourselves.
Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, ffsj.org
Andrew Lucero, Elena Salazar, Sammy Nunez, Alejandra Gutierrez, Shantesha
Fluker, Dashawn Rabon, Eduardo Crabbe, and Chris De Leone
(California) Fathers & Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ) is a progressive, solutions-orientated organization that works to address the varying needs of men, women,
youth, their families, and the community. By providing socially relevant and culturally relevant services, FFSJ develops local leadership while unifying the efforts
of existing groups. FFSJ addresses critical problems such as institutional inequity, fatherless homes, widespread poverty, employment disparities, inadequate
access to public health services, community reentry, and youth-on-youth violence.
The New Florida Majority, newfloridamajority.org
Devin D. Coleman
(Florida) The New Florida Majority is an independent organization working to
increase the voting and political power of marginalized and excluded constituencies toward an inclusive, equitable, and just Florida. We believe in a participatory
democracy where people can be their whole selves. We train grassroots citizens
to be leaders, mobilize communities to vote, educate the public to share our values, and inspire Floridians to take action toward their dreams. We organize people,
ideas, and resources to build a powerful new vision for Florida’s new majority. A
cornerstone of our beliefs is defending and expanding the voting rights of all citizens, including those who are new to the country, raising children on their own,
struggling to make a living, or returning from incarceration. We believe that a
strong democracy for all makes a better Florida for everyone.
The Ohio Organizing Collaborative, ohorganizing.org
DaMareo Cooper, Akim Lattermore, Minister Raymond Greene, Wayne Huggins,
and Yacove Delany
(Ohio) Ohio Organizing Collaborative is an innovative and experimental statewide
organization that unites community organizing groups, labor unions, faith organizations, and policy institutes across the state. We work to improve the lives of
regular Ohioans by fighting for one good job for every citizen. We use community
organizing and civic engagement to build power. We focus on on fighting against
barriers to employment and destroying the Prison Industrial Complex.

3

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Research Team

Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, miccd.org
Michelle Weemhoff, Kristen Staley, and Jason Smith
(Michigan) The Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency (MCCD) is a non-profit
organization dedicated to improving the effectiveness of policies and systems that
address the prevention and reduction of youth and adult crime. Founded in 1956,
MCCD believes everyone is entitled to equal access and treatment within justice
and human service systems and the public must be an informed and active participant in developing crime prevention and reduction policies. Through research,
collaboration, and advocacy-oriented strategies we work to shape public policy, educate justice system stakeholders, and support the safety of all Michigan
communities.
Partnership for Safety and Justice, safetyandjustice.org
Shannon Wight
(Oregon) Partnership of Safety and Justice (PSJ) is a statewide, non-profit organization that has worked to reform public safety and criminal justice policy in Oregon
for more than 15 years. We advocate for public safety and criminal justice policies
that address the needs of all people affected by crime and society’s response
to crime. We believe that effective policy should include an appropriate level of
accountability from those who commit crimes, resources to ensure that crime survivors get the services they need, and a commitment to proven strategies that
prevent crime and provide opportunities for both victims and people who commit
crimes to rebuild their lives.
Prison and Family Justice Project
law.umich.edu/centersandprograms/pcl/Pages/pfjp.aspx
Amanda Alexander
(Michigan) The Prison & Family Justice Project serves families divided by incarceration and the foster care system through a combination of direct representation,
know-your-rights education, targeted litigation, and advocacy. The Project works
with people in prison and their families to reduce the impact of incarceration and
to promote family reunification and successful reentry.
The Reentry Network for Returning Citizens
thereentrynetworkdc.wordpress.com
Courtney Stewart and Sherman Justice
(District of Columbia) The Reentry Network for Returning Citizens works to connect previously incarcerated individuals to jobs, housing, training, mental health,
substance abuse treatment, and recovery programs upon their return to the community. Our primary focus is to establish relationships, help rebuild our community,
reconnect with families, and educate the public to improve the quality of life for
reentrants.
Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged (RIHD,Inc.), rihd.org
Lillie Branch-Kennedy
(Virginia) Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged (RIHD, Inc.) is an
all-volunteer, non-partisan, statewide, membership organization working to end
the trend of Mass Incarceration in Virginia. We support self-help and prison-based
rehabilitation programs proven to end road-blocks for returning citizens. Recipient

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

of the 2011 “Lights on After-school” Proclamation(s) from Richmond City Mayor and
Richmond City Council for RIHD’s Youth Initiative, preventing and deterring youth
related crime.
Statewide Poverty Action Network (SPAN), povertyaction.org
Rolando Avila, Marcy Bowers, Ardell Shaw, and Lara Sim
(Washington) Poverty Action builds grassroots power to end the root causes of
poverty and create opportunities for everyone to prosper. Our successes directly
result from our engagement of people with low incomes and people of color in a
full spectrum of civic engagement activities, including: defining our legislative and
electoral priorities; playing a key role in advocacy campaigns; and speaking up to
change the dominant narrative around poverty. Because poverty is rooted in the
intersections of multiple oppressions, we work to change institutions and systems
that create and perpetuate poverty for the members of our communities.
Sunflower Community Action, sunfloweract.org
Durell Gilmore
(Kansas) Our mission is to change lives by developing grassroots leaders to identify
problems and seek lasting solutions. Sunflower members build power by working
together for the common good.
Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE), vote-nola.org
Gahiji Barrow and Norris Henderson
(Louisiana) V.O.T.E., Voice of the Ex-Offender, is a grassroots, membership-based
organization founded and run by Formerly Incarcerated Persons in partnership with
allies dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement of and discrimination against
formerly incarcerated people. We believe that formerly incarcerated people, their
loved ones, allies, and communities can use their experiences and expertise to
improve public safety in New Orleans. Through civic engagement and education
about how to maneuver the legal system and draft and advocate for policy and
legislation as well as other job and technical skills, VOTE mobilizes grassroots
leaders to transform our city’s criminal justice system.
Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ), center4racialjustice.org
Sade Richmond and DeAngelo Bester
(Illinois) Our mission is to eliminate the barriers to sustainable and living wage
employment for Black workers, strengthen economic security for Black families,
and advance a progressive pro-worker agenda that will lead to inclusion and prosperity for all marginalized workers.

5

5

Research Team

PROJECT SUPPORT PARTNERS
UCLA Labor Center, labor.ucla.edu
Lucero Herrera, Saba Waheed, and Natalia Garcia
The UCLA Labor Center creates innovative programs that offer a range of educational, research, and public service activities within the university and in the broader
community, especially among low-wage and immigrant workers. The Labor Center
is a vital resource for research, education, and policy development that helps create jobs that are good for workers and their communities. It also improves the
quality of existing jobs in the low-wage economy, and strengthens the process of
immigrant integration, especially among students and youth.
Human Impact Partners, humanimpact.org
Jonathan Heller and Sara Satinsky
Human Impact Partners’ mission is to transform the policies and places people need
to live healthy lives by increasing the consideration of health and equity in decision
making. Through research, advocacy, and capacity building, we help organizations
and public agencies who work with low-income communities and communities of
color to challenge the inequities that harm the health of our communities.
Participatory Budgeting Project, participatorybudgeting.org
Ginny Browne and Aseem Mulji
The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) is a non-profit organization that empowers people to decide together how to spend public money, primarily in the US and
Canada. We create and support participatory budgeting processes that deepen
democracy, build stronger communities, and make public budgets more equitable
and effective.

6

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Each year, the United States spends $80 billion1 to
lock away more than 2.4 million people in its jails
and prisons2—budgetary allocations that far outpace spending on housing, transportation, and
higher education.3
But costs run deeper than budget line items and
extend far beyond the sentences served. These
costs are rarely quantified and measured and primarily impact incarcerated populations and the
families and communities from whom they are
separated, the same people who are already stigmatized, penalized, and punished.
Families pay both the apparent and hidden costs
while their loved ones serve out sentences in our
jails and prisons. Because families are formed in
diverse ways and take many forms, the definition
used in this report encompasses families built
across generations and borders and within and
beyond blood relations. The families in this report
and those who support loved ones bear the burden
to help those individuals re-acclimate to society
after serving time. Four decades of unjust criminal
justice policies have created a legacy of collateral
impacts that last for generations and are felt most
deeply by women, low-income families, and communities of color.
In March 2014, the Ella Baker Center for Human
Rights, Forward Together, and Research Action
Design launched a collaborative participatory
research project with 20 community-based organizations across the country to address this unjust
legacy.
Trained community researchers reached directly into communities in 14 states, probing into the
financial costs faced when a family member goes
to jail or prison, the resulting effects on physical
and mental health, and the challenges and barriers encountered by all when an individual returns
home. The research included surveys with 712 formerly incarcerated people, 368 family members of
the formerly incarcerated, 27 employers, and 34
focus groups with family members and individuals

7

impacted by incarceration. The project revealed
that many of the costs and penalties associated
with incarceration continue long after incarceration
ends and reach far beyond the individual being
punished, with negative impacts for families and
communities.
The findings show that the long-term costs extend
beyond the significant sums already paid by individuals and their families for immediate and myriad
legal expenses, including cost of attorney, court
fees and fines, and phone and visitation charges.
In fact, these costs often amount to one year’s
total household income for a family and can force
a family into debt. Latent costs include, but are not
limited to, mental health support, care for untreated physical ailments, the loss of children sent to
foster care or extended family, permanent declines
in income, and loss of opportunities like education
and employment for both the individuals incarcerated and their family members, opportunities that
could lead to a brighter future.
Specifically, the research group learned:
People with convictions are saddled with copious
fees, fines, and debt at the same time that their
economic opportunities are diminished, resulting
in a lack of economic stability and mobility. Fortyeight percent of families in our survey overall were
unable to afford the costs associated with a conviction, while among poor families (making less than
$15,000 per year), 58% were unable to afford these
costs. Sixty-seven percent of formerly incarcerated individuals associated with our survey were still
unemployed or underemployed five years after
their release.
Many families lose income when a family member is removed from household wage earning and
struggle to meet basic needs while paying fees,
supporting their loved one financially, and bearing the costs of keeping in touch. Nearly 2 in 3
families (65%) with an incarcerated member were
unable to meet their family’s basic needs. Fortynine percent struggled with meeting basic food

Executive Summary

8

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

needs and 48% had trouble meeting basic housing
needs because of the financial costs of having an
incarcerated loved one.
Women bear the brunt of the costs—both financial
and emotional—of their loved one’s incarceration.
In 63% of cases, family members on the outside
were primarily responsible for court-related costs
associated with conviction. Of the family members
primarily responsible for these costs, 83% were
women.
In addition, families incur large sums of debt
due to their experience with incarceration.
Across respondents of all income brackets, the
average debt incurred for court-related fines and
fees alone was $13,607, almost one year’s entire
annual income for respondents who earn less than
$15,000 per year.
Despite their often-limited resources, families are
the primary resource for housing, employment,
and health needs of their formerly incarcerated
loved ones, filling the gaps left by diminishing
budgets for reentry services. Two-thirds (67%) of
respondents’ families helped them find housing.
Nearly one in five families (18%) involved in our
survey faced eviction, were denied housing, or did
not qualify for public housing once their formerly
incarcerated family member returned. Reentry programs, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations
combined did not provide housing and other support at the levels that families did.
Incarceration damages familial relationships and
stability by separating people from their support
systems, disrupting continuity of families, and
causing lifelong health impacts that impede families from thriving. The high cost of maintaining
contact with incarcerated family members led more
than one in three families (34%) into debt to pay for
phone calls and visits alone. Family members who
were not able to talk or visit with their loved ones
regularly were much more likely to report experiencing negative health impacts related to a family
member’s incarceration.
The stigma, isolation, and trauma associated with
incarceration have direct impacts across families
and communities. Of the people surveyed, about

9

one in every two formerly incarcerated persons
and one in every two family members experienced
negative health impacts related to their own or
a loved one’s incarceration. Families, including
their incarcerated loved ones, frequently reported Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, nightmares,
hopelessness, depression, and anxiety. Yet families have little institutional support for healing this
trauma and becoming emotionally and financially
stable during and post incarceration.
These impacts hit women of color and their families more substantially than others, deepening
inequities and societal divides that have pushed
many into the criminal justice system in the first
place. Almost one in every four women and two of
five Black women are related to someone who is
incarcerated.4
Poverty, in particular, perpetuates the cycle of
incarceration, while incarceration itself leads to
greater poverty. Estimates report that nearly 40%
of all crimes are directly attributable to poverty5
and the vast majority (80%) of incarcerated individuals are low-income.6 In fact about two-thirds
of those in jail report incomes below the poverty
line.7 The research in this report confirms that the
financial costs of incarceration and the barriers to
employment and economic mobility upon release
further solidify the link between incarceration and
poverty.
Most of all, this report’s collaborative research
found that while supportive families and communities can help reduce recidivism rates, these
bedrocks of support lack the necessary resources to help incarcerated individuals serve out their
sentences and reenter society successfully. It
is not enough to reform the criminal justice system without considering its purpose and impact
on communities. Institutions with power must
acknowledge the disproportionate impacts the
current system has on women, low-income communities, and communities of color and address and
redress the policies that got us here. Additionally,
society as a whole must rethink our approach to
accountability and rehabilitation, shift perceptions,
and remove barriers that prevent formerly incarcerated individuals and their families from getting
another chance at life.

Executive Summary

A BETTER APPROACH IS POSSIBLE
For decades, individuals, families, and communities—especially low-income people and communities of color—have faced destabilizing and
detrimental impacts as a result of our nation’s
unfair criminal justice policies. The repercussions
of these policies extend far beyond sentencing
and incarceration, affecting the employment, education, housing, and health of individuals and their
families for years to come. A unique contribution
to the body of research, the study explores the
ways in which women support their incarcerated
loved ones, often jeopardizing their own stability.
Our nation can no longer afford the devastating
financial and familial costs of incarceration if we
truly want to foster communities that are healthy,
sustainable, and just.
As a result of this research, recommendations are
made for three key categories of critical reforms
necessary to change the criminal justice system and
to help stabilize and support vulnerable families,
communities, and formerly incarcerated individuals: Restructuring and Reinvesting, Removing
Barriers, and Restoring Opportunities.
Restructuring and Reinvesting: Following the lead
of states like California, all states need to restructure their policies to reduce the number of people
in jails and prisons and the sentences they serve.
The money saved from reducing incarceration
rates should be used instead to reinvest in services
that work, such as substance abuse programs and
stable housing, which have proven to reduce recidivism rates. Additionally, sentencing needs to shift
focus to accountability, safety, and healing the
people involved rather than punishing those convicted of crimes.
Removing Barriers: Upon release, formerly incarcerated individuals face significant barriers accessing critical resources like housing and employment
that they need to survive and move forward. Many
are denied public benefits like food stamps and
most are unable to pursue training or education

that would provide improved opportunities for the
future. Families also suffer under these restrictions
and risk losing support as a result of their loved
one’s conviction. These barriers must be removed
in order to help individuals have a chance at success, particularly the many substantial financial
obligations that devastate individuals and their
families. On the flip side, when incarcerated people
maintain contact with their family members on the
outside, their likelihood of successful reunification
and reentry increases, and their chances of recidivating are reduced. For most families the cost of
maintaining contact is too great to bear and must
be lowered if families are to stay intact. Removing
cost and other barriers to contact is essential.
Restoring Opportunities: Focusing energy on
investing and supporting formerly incarcerated
individuals, their families, and the communities
from which they come can restore their opportunities for a brighter future and the ability to
participate in society at large. Savings from criminal
justice reforms should be combined with general budget allocations and invested in job training
and subsidized employment services, for example,
to provide the foundation necessary to help individuals and their families succeed prior to system
involvement and upon reentry.
Our nation’s criminal justice system has dramatic
impacts on the lives of individuals who are incarcerated and the lives of those they touch. These
effects wreak financial, physical, and emotional havoc on women, families, and communities,
undermining potential for a better life. The true
costs of our criminal justice system are complex,
deeply rooted, and demand a closer look at the
multiple impacts on individuals and families. When
these costs are understood and acknowledged, it
becomes clear that the system—and society more
broadly—must change.

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

INTRODUCTION
There may be nothing more important than healthy,
supportive families to sustain a thriving community.
If safe and vibrant neighborhoods in all of our
communities are the goal, all families—whether
formed by blood or created through affinity—must
have an equal opportunity for success.
But when we lock people up, we separate them
from their family, ripping this foundation apart at
the seams. When we lock someone up, we often
sentence the whole family—not just emotionally,
but also financially. This creates a ripple effect that
reverberates through entire families and communities and leads to increased poverty, destabilized
neighborhoods, and generations of trauma.

Economic stability and healthy family relationships
have been shown to reduce recidivism. At the same
time, families of incarcerated individuals serve as
a primary source of support for their loved ones
despite their own hardship. Though a critical aspect
of successful reentry, families—especially those
that are low income and of color—get no support
from the justice system to help their family members.10 Far from being supported, upon their loved
one’s release, the family is often penalized and
punished in ways that additionally threaten family
members’ health, stability, and financial well-being, increasing challenges to help their loved one
access the employment, social support programs,
and affordable housing needed to move forward.

Rather than make us safer, forty years of unfair
criminal justice policies are literally destroying families and communities, especially those that are
already vulnerable to health disparities, violence,
and lack of opportunities. Women (both cisgender
and trans women), low-income people, and people
of color have been hurt the most from these policies, which dim hopes and limit opportunities to
fulfill their dreams for something better.

With more than 2.4 million people currently housed
in our nation’s jails and prisons11 and the many families they leave behind, we simply cannot afford to
ignore these impacts. This report takes a closer
look at the lifetime costs of incarceration and how
these costs are distributed, highlighting the often
invisible, but dramatic impact of the criminal justice
system on low-income communities, communities
of color, and women.

A yearlong national research project undertaken
by 23 organizations collecting information from 14
states revealed that many of the costs associated
with incarceration continue long after incarceration
ends and reach far beyond the individual punished.
Focus groups and surveys with formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, show undeniably
that families and communities face significant
hardships resulting from incarceration—hardships
that affect their finances, health, housing, and relationships for the rest of their lives.

Findings delivered in this report illuminate the
significant challenges the criminal justice system
imposes on individuals, families, and communities
in meeting basic needs, building economic stability, maintaining relationships, and sustaining health
and well-being—both before and after sentencing. Each section includes relevant research on
the impacts of incarceration, as well as highlights
key findings from the research, which explores
these impacts through a gender and family lens.
Personal stories from community researchers and
respondents are included throughout to capture
the intersecting nature of these impacts and their
human cost. The report concludes with recommendations for policy changes that focus on ways to
reduce mass incarceration and recidivism, support
reentry, and ensure family stability so that we can
break cycles of poverty and incarceration in our
most vulnerable families and communities.

Incarceration is both a predictor and a consequence
of poverty. More than half of those entering the
criminal justice system live at or below the poverty
line ($11,770 per year annual income) when sentenced and over two-thirds of those in jail reported
incomes of less than $12,000 per year.8 In total, at
least 80% of incarcerated individuals are indigent.9
Our research demonstrates that incarceration reinforces economic stress on impoverished families
and limits the economic mobility of both formerly
incarcerated people and their families.
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The True Costs of the Punitive Criminal Justice System

THE TRUE COSTS OF THE PUNITIVE CRIMINAL
JUSTICE SYSTEM
Decades of poorly structured criminal justice policies and practices have negatively impacted
millions of families’ economic stability, health and
well-being, and potential for future opportunities.
More than 77 million Americans have a criminal
record, meaning that almost one in three adults
currently is or has been involved with the criminal
justice system.12 Between 1970 and 2005, our prison population increased 700 percent, largely as a
result of the war on drugs.13 Since the 1970s both
federal and state laws have imposed minimum sentences for drug conviction as well as policies that
mandated minimum and enhanced sentences.14
The growth of the population our nation has locked
behind bars has led to increased costs at both
the state and federal levels, with states bearing a
greater responsibility for costs. Of the $80 billion
spent on incarceration today, almost $50 billion
comes from state spending alone.15 Beginning in
the 1990s, to cover and reduce the costs of incarceration, states began employing new strategies,
including imposing a variety of fines and fees,

privatizing prisons, contracting with private vendors to provide services, and cutting programs that
prevent crime, reduce recidivism, and help incarcerated individuals make a fresh start after serving
time.16
On top of the tremendous financial costs individuals and their families face after incarceration, people struggle to repair family relationships, access
housing and jobs, and address health challenges, all while being denied benefits and critical
supports. Communities most heavily impacted by
incarceration are some of our nation’s most economically disadvantaged, and are disproportionately communities of color. The United States
imposes penalties and restricts opportunities
for individuals and their families at a tremendous
apparent and latent cost for our most vulnerable
people—a cost that ultimately affects us all. This
report will help to illuminate just how severe these
impacts are, particularly on vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.

CHALLENGES TO MEETING BASIC NEEDS
“There’s been times where I’ve gone
six months without light because I
made an obligation to do what I had
to do for my incarcerated children.”
— Family member, New Orleans

Key Findings: From the outset, poor people are
more likely to be incarcerated and their poverty
and the poverty of their families are exacerbated by the policies and practices of our criminal
justice system. The research group found that
many of the extensive costs associated with legal
defense, detention, sentencing, and incarceration

fall on family members. Families are often forced to
choose between supporting an incarcerated loved
one and meeting basic needs for their families and
themselves. For many families the loss of income
from the relative who goes to jail or prison results
in deep poverty and can last for generations to
come. Alongside physical separation, the financial
impacts of incarceration place tremendous strain
on families, breaking ties and weakening the relationships incarcerated individuals need to get back
on track after their sentence is complete.
As one family member from Miami commented,
“Whatever it is, you pay. When the call comes in you
take the call. It’s time to visit, you visit. They want
something, you buy it. They need something, you
pay for it. The costs are astronomical. If we could

12

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

MEETING BASIC NEEDS
2 in 3 families had difficulty meeting
basic needs as a result of their loved
one’s conviction and incarceration.
70% of these families were
caring for children under 18.

even begin to do something about that from the
prison point of view, well, from the local jail pre-trial

Nearly 1 in 5

survey participants'
families were unable to
afford housing due to the loss of
income resulting from their loved
one's incarceration.

detention facility, that would be a big deal because
that burden falls on the back of the family.”

Court Fees and Fines
The fees and fines associated with the criminal justice system can leave incarcerated individuals and
their families in deep poverty. In 40 states people
are charged for the costs related to their incarceration17 and face sizable additional fines associated
with their sentences. The research group found
that the average amount of money spent on
conviction-related costs, including restitution
and attorney fees, was $13,607. Commissary or
court-related programs were additional expenses.
While 63% of respondents reported that family
members were primarily responsible for covering
conviction-related costs, nearly half also reported
that their families could not afford to pay these fees
and fines. The weight of these fees, which can total
nearly a year’s income for some families, pushed

13

“Money you spent for lawyers,
money you spent for trying to find
investigators and whatever you
need to try to help your loved ones,
so they don’t have to do serious jail
time. Then when they’re in jail you
try to make sure you take care of
the commissary and you take care
of their children. You almost have to
have another part time job.”
— Family member, Washington DC

Challenges to Meeting Basic Needs

COURT-RELATED COSTS TO FAMILIES
On average families paid $13,607 in court-related costs.
These costs amount to nearly one year’s income for low-income
families making less than $15,000 per year.

83% of family members primarily
responsible for these costs were women.

1 in 5 families across income levels reported

that they had to take out a loan to cover these costs.

many of the family members surveyed to take out
loans or fall into financial dire straits as a result.
Percentage of Families Who Found Particular
Costs Most Difficult*
Attorney’s fees

43%

Court fees & fines

38%

Bail/Bond

20%

Restitution

20%

*Open-ended question
Families said they struggled to cover basic expenses like rent and food, but endured these sacrifices
because failure to pay fees and fines can send
incarcerated individuals back to prison or jail. These
financial burdens were found to disproportionately
fall to women in the family who also had children
living at home. Almost half of the family members
primarily responsible for paying court-related costs
were mothers, and one in ten were grandmothers.
One formerly incarcerated person from Oakland,
California, commented, “Everything that was put
into bailing me out was everything my mother had

in savings and she borrowed some money from
my grandparents. She was back to working paycheck to paycheck. Eventually, about a year and
a half after being locked up, my mother had to
give up the house she loved and move back to an
apartment.”
Many families hired private attorneys and consequently suffered under exorbitant debt for years
to come. Despite the constitutional right to legal
counsel, many people are forced, or prefer, to
hire their own private attorney rather than work
with a public defender.18 But even public defense
can come at a cost; in 43 states and the District
of Columbia defendants can be billed for using a
public defender through application fees, which
can range from $10 to $480, or “reimbursement
fees” to pay back the defense, which can total
thousands of dollars.19 In Florida and Ohio defender fees are required regardless of outcome of the
case. Some states also charge defendants for a
jury trial.20

14

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

Family Impacts Related to Conviction Costs*
Family had to take out a loan in order to make the payments

20%

Family members lost wages when taking time off work to support family member

16%

Formerly incarcerated family member was re-incarcerated for not making payments

12%

Family members had wages garnished or tax refund withheld to make the payments

9%

*Respondents were able to select more than one response
As another formerly incarcerated person from
Oakland shared, “The impact of my crime was
expensive for the simple fact that my wife had to
put up everything that she had to retain an attorney. From the process of doing so, she went into
poverty and lost custody of the children and then
had to join the navy to support herself.”
These transferred costs mark a historic shift
whereby “criminal justice debt” has become a
major revenue generator for states as well as for
private debt collection agencies.21 Estimates indicate formerly incarcerated people owe as much as
60% of their income to criminal debts.22 According
to one source, “up to 85% of people returning from
prison owe some form of criminal justice debt”
(compared to 25% in 1991).23
In all states except Hawaii and the District of
Columbia, defendants are charged a fee for the
cost of the electronic monitoring devices they

are ordered to wear.24 Some states contract with
private vendors for these services. The charges
are unregulated and come with exorbitant fees,
enabling the private firms’ profit.
On top of that, when individuals have served their
time and are released from prison, they often face
new, additional charges associated with incarceration. Many states transfer the cost of parole and
probation supervision to released prisoners by
charging monthly supervision fees.25
As of 2011, the total amount of criminal justice
debt in the U.S. owed by individuals topped $50
billion.26 In many states these fees were initially
imposed under the guise of saving cost. However,
it is not clear that criminal justice fees save money
for the state either, as failure to make payments
can lead to re-incarceration at a cost averaging
$29,141 per year.27

Family members identified as primarily responsible for covering court-related fees and fines*

*Scale of words reflects frequency in responses

15

15

Challenges to Meeting Basic Needs

FERGUSON AND CRIMINAL DEBT
Ferguson, Missouri, garnered national attention after the police killed Michael Brown. In the wake of this
tragedy, an investigation by local public defenders revealed how pervasive and exploitative criminal debt
collection was. In one year Ferguson collects $2.6 million in court fees and fines, representing the city’s
second largest source of income. In 2013, the municipal court in Ferguson issued 33,000 arrest warrants
for minor offenses. Many residents were jailed because they could not afford the hundreds of dollars in
court fines for offenses such as traffic violations.a
The imposition of criminal justice debt is not unique to Ferguson. According to a yearlong study of criminal justice debt in 50 states by National Public Radio (NPR), in partnership with the Brennan Center for
Justice, almost one in five residents of Philadelphia had unpaid debts. In New York, there are 1.2 million
outstanding warrants, many for unpaid court fees and fines. Texas pays half of its probation budget from
the fees and fines it imposes. Another Brennan Center study found that 8 of the 15 states studied suspended driving privileges for failure to make payments.b
Some of these practices benefit private companies, as in Florida, where private debt collectors are
allowed to add a 40% surcharge to money owed.c Although many of these practices are intended to cover
budget costs, when individuals who are unable to make payments are incarcerated, the costs to local and
state jurisdictions may surpass any revenue accrued. Whether the imposition of criminal debt makes economic sense, it constitutes a criminalization of poverty that imposes massive social costs on the poorest
members of society.
a. Shapiro, Joseph. “In Ferguson, Court Fines And Fees Fuel Anger.” NPR.org. 25 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 Dec. 2014.
b. Shapiro, Joseph. “As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying the Price.” NPR.org. 19 May 2014. Web. 29 Jul. 2015.
words reflects
in 2010.
c. Diller, Rebekah. The Hidden Costs of Florida’s Criminal Justice Fees. NewScale
York:ofBrennan
Centerfrequency
for Justice,

responses

Child Support
Because parents of minors now constitute a large
portion of the incarcerated population, the amount
of child support debt owed by incarcerated individuals has drastically risen in recent decades,
creating significant stressors in families and often
leading to further incarceration.28 Paying child
support is an important obligation, yet the enforcement mechanisms add a burden to the currently
and formerly incarcerated, and have the potential
to further jeopardize family relationships and financial stability. One study found that parents, upon
entering prison, owed $10,543 in child support
obligations.29 Due to a lack of income or full-time
employment opportunities, the majority of parents have no means of paying child support debt
while in prison, and they also struggle to pay it

“Because I pay my child support I
am forced to be homeless with an
income of only $403 per month from
SSI and SSDI.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Seattle, Washington

after their release.30 Almost half of these parents
had their wages garnished, as federal guidelines
permit jurisdictions to claim up to 65% of a debtor’s income to pay for accumulated child support
debt.31 For many formerly incarcerated parents,

16

16

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

CHILDCARE COSTS &
RESPONSIBILITIES

Nearly 1 in 3 formerly incarcerated people
involved in our survey were responsible for
children at the time of their incarceration.

they must choose child support payments or paying for rent and other basic necessities.
The research for this report found that the average
required child support payment was $427 a month,
and 73% of survey participants reported that formerly incarcerated parents were unable to make
consistent child support payments. Most attributed
non-payment to lack of income or lack of employment. Of respondents paying child support, more
than half (53%) reported having to choose between
making child support payments and meeting basic
needs. More than one-third also said they risked
re-incarceration or were re-incarcerated for their
inability to pay child support. Forcing the individual back into incarceration only furthers cycles of
separation, debt, and familial tension.32 Over onethird of survey respondents reported that inability
to make child support payments damaged their
relationship with their family and children.

Children are not served when a parent is unable
to pay rent or buy food due to garnished wages
from child support obligations. Failure to make
payments while both family members and formerly incarcerated individuals are struggling to meet
basic needs, also places additional strains on family relationships. Punitive laws aimed at enforcing
child support obligations do not serve the interests
of family reunification or child well-being. These
laws plummet parents who are already struggling
into further debt, prevent them from meeting basic
needs or obtaining opportunities, and strain relationships with their children and other caretakers
by imposing a range of penalties that then impede
the reentry process and make it more difficult to
reestablish ties with family members.33

Loss of Family Income
In addition to paying fees and fines associated
with a loved one’s detention, many families also
face a significant loss of income during incarceration that results in financial instability, such as
loss of housing or employment opportunities.
Research for this report found that nearly half of

17

formerly incarcerated individuals contributed 50%
or more to their families’ total household income
prior to incarceration, and that their families struggled to cover basic costs of living as a result of
both the loss of income as well as the costs associated with conviction and incarceration. Indeed

Challenges to Building Economic Stability

the majority of survey participants reported that
their families had difficulty meeting basic needs,
including food, housing, utilities, transportation,
and clothing. Sixty-five percent of families had difficulty meeting basic needs as the result of a loved
one’s incarceration. Of those the top five identified
most often include:
Basic Needs Family Had Difficulty Meeting
Food

49%

Housing

48%

Utilities

45%

Transportation

40%

Clothing

37%

The debts accrued prior to and during incarceration
add up to challenges that would be insurmountable even if new challenges were not imposed
when people return home. Unfortunately, many key
opportunities, such as education loans or housing
assistance, are limited or prohibited for formerly
incarcerated people. The impact of many of these
restrictions is to imperil the economic stability of
formerly incarcerated people and the families that
support them.

CHALLENGES TO BUILDING ECONOMIC STABILITY
Key Findings: While studies have shown that stable housing and employment increase community
well-being by reducing individual vulnerability to
recidivism, many policies restrict access for those
individuals who were formerly incarcerated.34
Respondents in this study identified education,
job training and employment opportunities, financial stability, and affordable housing as the most
important priorities for building vibrant, healthy
communities and families. Instead formerly incarcerated individuals and their families face significant
barriers to accessing any of these opportunities.
In many ways, family support is our national reentry program. Yet the people tasked with facilitating
reentry—the families—reported little or no support, leaving them to grapple unassisted with the
barriers and burdens imposed on their formerly
incarcerated loved ones and themselves as family members. According to the National Institute of
Justice Collateral Consequences Inventory, there
are more than 44,000 federal, state, and local
restrictions placed on people with a criminal conviction.35 Even where explicit prohibitions are not
in place, stigma and discrimination create barriers
just as difficult to overcome as legal barriers.

“When you spend billions a year on
incarceration, you would think that
you could give subsidized housing,
help with tuition or some type of
financial support to help a person
reenter society and get a leg up in
life. It costs more to keep them in
jail. You spend a lot of money on
incarceration, but it would cost a lot
less to help people out so they can
start back in life again.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Oakland

18

18

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

“No one hires felons.”
— Sherman Justice
After five long years of incarceration, I was
released. To get back on my feet, I immediately
started looking for and applying to jobs. Time and
time again I was told, “no one hires felons.” I was
told that if I applied for school, I wouldn’t be eligible to receive grant money.
With little to no career opportunities to pursue,
the natural thing to do is to return to your comfort
zone. Rather than engaging in the same activities
that would inevitably lead me back in handcuffs,
I made a conscious decision to change my life
around. I started going to church and becoming
close with preachers.
Like many formerly incarcerated people, I didn’t
have a caseworker, but I had a strong support
team. My mentor—the first male figure I had in my
life to look up to—and my grandmother helped
provide me with clothing and food and put a roof
over my head. Unwaveringly, they stayed by my
side and connected me to different community
programs that helped me with everything from
resumé building to job training to applying for
food assistance.
A longtime childhood friend invited me to move
from Ohio to Washington DC where I might find
more job prospects. I seized that opportunity knowing that I needed to do more than have
faith; I needed to put forth a hundred percent of
my effort toward doing the work. This was a difficult choice for me because my son and family
remained in Ohio, but moving was the only way I
could earn money to support them.
My first job was picking up trash in a local neighborhood, but I wanted to be involved in something
more. I wanted to give back to the community that
I was now a part of, with the intention of one day

19

19

being able to give back to my home community
where I once caused so much harm.
I initially began volunteering with a local organization called Free Minds Book Club where I worked
with youth who had been sent to adult federal
prison. When they came home, I worked to help
them positively reenter back into their communities. This work opened up the door for me.
I learned about the laws and policies which created barriers for formerly incarcerated people like
myself and became a strong advocate for “banning-the-box” on applications that ask, “Have you
ever been convicted of a felony?” I knew all too
well that once an employer sees a checkmark in
“the box,” more often than not, your application
is immediately thrown out of the candidacy pool.
I continue advocating on behalf of people who are
formerly incarcerated with the National Coalition
on Black Civic Participation. I work in 12 states
as the national coordinator, to get Black youth 18
to 35 politically engaged and to educate them to
advocate for the issues that impact them most,
issues that often mirror my own struggles with
poverty, unemployment, and experience with the
justice system.
Recently I was invited to speak at Washington
DC’s Justice for All march. I stepped on the podium, looked into the crowd, and thought about
how far I’d come; from someone who had spent
five years incarcerated to now addressing a
crowd of 60 thousand people in our collective call
for systemic change.
Now, I just hope our country can address some of
the continuing harm we inflict on people who have
been incarcerated. We need to remove barriers to
jobs and housing and really make it so everyone
can turn their lives around. That’s the world I want
to leave for my son.
— Sherman Justice, Washington DC

Challenges to Building Economic Stability

Employment
Stable employment is necessary to be self-sufficient upon release, but for many a criminal record
significantly limits opportunities for employment
after incarceration. Research has shown that
upwards of 60% of formerly incarcerated people
remain unemployed even one year after release;
for many, finding stable employment is often unattainable even years after release.36
The vast majority of survey respondents (76%) in
this study rated their experience of finding work
as very difficult or nearly impossible. Excluding
respondents who were retired or not working
because of disabilities, 26% remained unemployed
five years after release, and just 40% of formerly incarcerated individuals were working full time
after five years. If part-time and temporary work
is included, 67% of respondents remained either
unemployed or underemployed after five years.
As one formerly incarcerated individual from
Chicago recounted, even being trained for work
often does not help. “When I came home in 2001
it was hard for me. It was hard for me because
after doing six years straight, I was certified to be

REENTRY
EMPLOYMENT

“I think the need is that you can’t
get employed, and people aren’t
giving you the opportunity for work.
That pretty much settles the rest of
your problems. Everybody wants
self-esteem and your family revolves
around the opportunity to work.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Providence

a butcher, but I still couldn’t get a job anywhere—
not even at the little grocery store—because of the
record. So it was hard; it was hard for me to find
some work when I came home.”
Further compounding financial instability, when
formerly incarcerated individuals return home,
the only employment options available tend to
be low-paying and unstable jobs that provide no
potential for wage increases. Studies have found
that criminal convictions and incarceration have a
lasting impact on both employment prospects as

The biggest barriers to finding
stable employment were lack
of adequate education and
training, and being required
to disclose conviction history
when applying for a job.

3 out of 4 survey participants said that finding employment
after release was difficult or nearly impossible.

20

20

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

well as income mobility. A two-decade-long study,
for example, found that prison time reduces wages by up to 20%.37 Research has also shown that
the effect of incarceration on lowering wages was
twice as great for formerly incarcerated Black and
Latino workers than for formerly incarcerated white
workers.38
Research has also shown that formerly incarcerated individuals are far more likely to experience
employer abuse in the workplace. Nearly half of
respondents in this study reported experiencing
some form of employer mistreatment, including
wrongful termination (25%), wage theft (16%), wage
discrimination (14%), and employer abuse (15%).
Federal and state restrictions and licensing bans
exclude people from participating in a long list of
occupations from street vending and taxicab driving39 to anything involving the care of children or
vulnerable populations.40 More broadly, the checkbox that often appears on employment forms
requiring the applicant to reveal any felony or
misdemeanor conviction facilitates discrimination
against formerly incarcerated people. “Even if my
resumé checks out and it’s beautiful and I check
that box, they’re still going to overlook it,” one formerly incarcerated individual in Chicago stated.
“Now I’m at the point where I’m damn near going
to not check the box and get employment and get
in there for a month or two and get fired anyway.
But that’s going to go on your background, ‘he
lied on his application.’” According to the National
Employment Law Project, unregulated criminal
background checks have effectively barred more

They have people that had a clean slate
for 20 to 30 years, may have made a
mistake at some point in their life and
did their time. But when you go and they
ask you to check that box, ‘Have you
ever been convicted of a felony,’ you got
to check that box. If not, you can get
fired for lying on the application. This
is what happened to me, a personal
experience.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
New Orleans

21

21

“My nephew had felonies on his record.
He’d go out to look for a job. As soon
as they ask that question about felony,
he was immediately sent out the door.
In fact, he was at a location in line,
because he had a little chance he’s
gonna be hired and so he waited outside, and he said a lady came out and
announced that if you have a felony, you
might as well get out of the line right
now. The difficulty is that that word felony on their record does not permit them
to get a job of any kind. Some places
would hire someone with a felony, but
even these are few and far between.”
—Family member, Miami

than 65 million people with a criminal record from
finding secure, sustainable employment.41
Even when policies requiring information about
convictions are not in place, many employers conduct background checks, run online searches, or
use credit reports in their screening process for
prospective employees. Since criminal justice debt
is reported to credit agencies, it provides a “backdoor” means for employers to find information
about a job applicant.
While significant obstacles to employment exist
for formerly incarcerated men, particularly men
of color, it is important to note that barriers faced
by women as well as transgender and gender
non-conforming people reveal how incarceration
reinforces gender inequality.42 Latina women’s
employment opportunities are especially limited
by having a criminal record43 and almost half of all
Black transgender people have been incarcerated
at some point in their lives.44 Once in prison, transgender and gender non-conforming people are
denied equal chances of parole and end up serving longer sentences than cisgender people.45 This
further impacts their ability to reenter the workforce and find secure employment.
All survey participants in this study identified
employment discrimination based on criminal
record and inadequate education and job training

Challenges to Building Economic Stability

opportunities as the top two barriers to finding
stable employment. However, additional barriers
revealed disparate experiences based on race and
ethnicity. Black survey participants were far more
likely to identify a lack of jobs in the community
and restrictions on travel (e.g., geographic mobility
restrictions preventing individuals from taking jobs
outside of the area) when compared to other survey participants. Latino survey participants were
more likely to identify documentation status as a
critical barrier to finding work.

Given the multiple barriers faced by people with
criminal records, it is not surprising that more
respondents rely on their networks and their families to find work. Survey respondents stated that,
in addition to their own efforts, they relied more
heavily on support from family members (36%) than
any other source, including reentry programs (19%),
community-based organizations (18%), or faithbased organizations (6%). Ensuring stable work
for those who are coming home and may have
incurred debt is important for both individuals and
their families.

WHAT EMPLOYERS ARE SAYING
The majority of formerly incarcerated respondents named lack of access to employment as
one of the biggest barriers they faced after incarceration. In order to better understand hiring
practices, 27 employers from industries such as
retail, non-profit organizations, and business services were interviewed as well.
The majority of employers interviewed did not
think a criminal record was a strong predictor for
job performance. Despite this, most stated that
they still considered whether the candidate had
any criminal history, many indicating that applicants to the position would have to disclose any
conviction history.
Employers who had hired or worked with people
who had criminal records or conviction shared
their positive experiences and said the performance of workers with a criminal history was the
same or even better than those without one. Some
of the notable experiences by employers included
individuals who were “really involved, passionate,
and excited to learn,” those who “have exhibited
a higher level of integrity,” and individuals who
started off as a volunteer, and eventually became
a full time employee. One employer noted that he
had hired someone with a drug conviction and
although “he had problems with his personal life
in terms of being homeless, he was trustworthy.
He still works today.”

22

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

Impact of Incarceration on Family Economic Stability
Financial stability of family was damaged

68%

Members of the family missed or lost employment opportunities

20%

Young people in the family were unable to attend high school or go to college

10%

Adult members of the family were unable to complete education goals

10%

*Respondents were able to select more than one response

Education
Research indicates that educational attainment
significantly improves employment opportunities
for formerly incarcerated people.46 But significant
barriers to formal education exist for incarcerated
and formerly incarcerated individuals.47 These barriers often start before the individual even enters
the system. Half of all respondents indicated that
the highest level of education of formerly incarcerated family members was completing high school
or earning a GED.

23

“If we have education and jobs we’re
not gonna go to jail. They combine,
they go together. If I have education,
I can get a job and I can get along
with people.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Providence

Challenges to Building Economic Stability

Though many hope to return to school, prospects
for continuing education are poor for those returning home after completing a sentence. In this study,
the majority of formerly incarcerated individuals
(67%) wanted to return to school after their release.
Yet fewer than one-third (27%) were able to continue with education or training of any kind. The cost
of tuition (58%), transportation to or distance from
school (33%), and inability to get an educational
loan because of criminal conviction (25%) were
among the barriers identified most often. Yet, it is
commonly understood that investing in educational opportunities for those who are and have been

incarcerated provides clear and cost effective benefits to individuals, their families, and society.
The majority of respondents saw education as a
preventative measure—something that would provide the kind of opportunities they needed to obtain
stable employment and increase their chances of
remaining in their communities and out of the criminal justice system. In fact, respondents were most
likely to cite education as the best investment of
tax dollars with 86% preferring investment in education over prisons.

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS IN PRISONS
Educational attainment is linked to decreased recidivism, with an estimated four dollars
saved for every dollar spent on educational programs in prison. Historically, “postsecondary correctional education” (PSCE) was conceived as part of a larger policy intervention
aimed at making higher education broadly accessible.a  The 1972 Pell Grant program
allowed people in prison to receive federal financial aid in order to take college courses.
In 1994 Congress eliminated Pell Grants to people in prison, even though they constituted
only 1% of the Pell Grant’s annual grantee budget.b The resulting loss of access and quality
of higher education meant that between 1994 and 2001 the number of college programs in
prisons had gone from 350 to fewer than a dozen.c The Department of Education is experimenting with lifting this ban for three to five years, measuring how it affects recidivism
among people with certain convictions.d
Despite numerous barriers to accessing postsecondary education programs in prison, many
incarcerated people continue to pursue some form of education. According to survey data
of 43 states, “71,000 persons enrolled in vocational or academic postsecondary education
programs in prisons for academic year 2009–10.”e More than half of respondents in this
study were interested in receiving some form of education or training and many had taken
advantage of educational opportunities available during incarceration.
a. Welsh, Michele F. “The Effects of the Elimination of Pell Grant Eligibility for State Prison Inmates.” Journal of
Correctional Education 53.4 (2002): 154–58. Web. 17 Jul. 2015.
b. Gould, Mary Rachel, and SpearIt. “Twenty Years After the Education Apocalypse: The Ongoing Fall Out from the
1994 Omnibus Crime Bill.” St Louis University Public Law Review 33 (2014): 283. Web. 17 Jul. 2015.
c. Torre, María Elena, and Michelle Fine. “Bar None: Extending Affirmative Action to Higher Education in Prison.”
Journal of Social Issues 61.3 (2005): 569–94. Web. 17 Jul. 2015.
d. Mitchell, Josh, and Joe Palazzolo. “Pell Grants to Be Restored for Prisoners.” 27 Jul. 2015. Web. 29 Jul. 2015.
e. Gorgol, Laura E., and Brian A. Sponsler. Unlocking Potential: Results of a National Survey of Postsecondary
Education in State Prisons. Washington D.C.: Institute for Higher Education Policy, 2011.

24

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

Public Benefits
According to the Congressional Research Service,
the federal poverty line today is based on a formula developed nearly a half century ago, using
a calculation of economic need based on the economic standards of the mid-1950s. If the same
calculation were to reflect today’s cost of living,
the poverty line would be more than three times
higher than it is currently.48 Despite this obvious
contradiction, the federal poverty line remains a
criterion for eligibility of many benefits needed
by financially struggling families. Even though
the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP, also thought of as “food stamps”) measures
the most dire poverty ($11,770 for an individual or
$24,250 for a four-person household), as of April
2015, over 45 million people and 22 million households receive benefits under SNAP,49 while the
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
program served an average of 3.5 million people
in 2014.50
Whether needing to supplement their income
due to paycheck unfairness, job loss, low wages, medical bills, rising housing and food costs,
or unforeseen circumstances, federal programs
provide a safety net to millions of families. In fact,
a majority of adults in the United States have
received some form of public benefit while four
in ten say they have been helped by a program
intended to assist them during financial hardship.
Overall, seven in ten households have at least one
member who has benefited from a public program
like these.51 Despite the universality of needing
assistance during hardship, federal restrictions
deny many formerly incarcerated people and
their families full access to these crucial programs
even with their income eligibility, making it a nearly insurmountable challenge to start over after
incarceration.
States have the discretion to choose whether
or not to enforce the federal ban on Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP) for those with drug-related charges. The
majority of states choose to enforce the ban,
thereby denying social assistance to thousands
of individuals, deepening economic insecurity as

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“With my son, by him having a drug
conviction, he’s not eligible for any
type of government assistance,
including housing. He’s not eligible
for food stamps for a year. He’s not
eligible for a Pell Grant, meaning
that he won’t be able to go to school
for a year. And if I was living in public
housing, anytime that he wanted to
come home to live with me, he’s not
eligible to live there either. So that’s
the war on drugs.”
—Family member, New Orleans

a punitive measure.52 Women and people of color
bear the brunt of the harm caused by the denial
of public welfare benefits.53 Because of disparate
sentencing enforcement of drug laws on people
of color, for example, they face greater barriers to
receiving public welfare benefits.
As a result of their conviction, more than one in
five survey respondents in this study reported
being denied public assistance, including general assistance, housing, or nutrition assistance
through federal programs like TANF and SNAP
after release. Of those denied benefits, nearly a third were families who had children in their
household and said they most often were denied
food stamps.
Criminal justice debt also adversely limits access
to public benefits. Because the “failure” to pay
criminal justice debt constitutes a violation of
parole or probation, individuals who cannot afford
to pay this debt may be cut off from benefits such
as TANF, food stamps, housing assistance, and
Supplemental Security Income for seniors and
people with disabilities.54 The loss of benefits due
to the failure to pay unaffordable criminal justice
debt can have serious consequences for families,
worsening the financial stability of families already
struggling to meet basic needs, or making it more
difficult for individuals on parole or probation to
meet child support obligations.

Challenges to Building Economic Stability

Housing
“I am in tears every night when I go
to sleep because my son has a felony
charge. I’m on social security right
now and I’m 61 so I can’t get senior
help. So for me to go and get a place
to live, it’s a serious challenge. He
and I want to live together but he
has felony charges so when we go
and get a place even if we put all our
money together, it’s still a struggle.
Nobody wants to take somebody
that has a felony. So I’m faced with
being homeless, seriously homeless.
At 61! I can’t believe it. I can’t find a
place to live in my own hometown.”

Secure housing is a critical first step to attaining
stability post incarceration, yet many legal, social,
and economic barriers prevent individuals from
acquiring stable housing when they return to their
community. Just as stable housing reduces the
risk of recidivism, lack of housing increases the
likelihood of incarceration and re-incarceration.
Failure to obtain stable housing poses significant
challenges to reentering society and to finding
employment, especially for low-income women of
color.55 One study revealed that women with a history of long-term homelessness on the street were
five times as likely to be incarcerated as those with
stable housing.56 Conversely, women who had
access to long-term public housing were less likely
to be incarcerated or re-incarcerated.57
Despite clear evidence of the importance of secure
housing, both formerly incarcerated individuals
and their families face tremendous barriers to stable housing after release. Municipalities in most
states require a criminal background check for all
public housing applicants, and may deny housing
applications on the basis of conviction history, or
evict residents if family members with a history of

—Family member, Washington DC

conviction are present or living in the home. Many
local housing authorities nationwide have also
drawn up additional unique exclusionary policies
that increase barriers to securing public housing
for those entangled in the criminal legal system or

REENTRY HOUSING
Cost and discrimination were the top
barriers to finding housing after release.

79% of survey participants were

either ineligible for or denied housing because
of their own or a loved one’s conviction history.

58% of survey participants were

currently living with family members while
only 9% were living in transitional housing.

1 in 10 survey participants reported family

members being evicted when loved ones returned.

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

those with a criminal record. In some states, these
policies even include considering arrests that did
not lead to convictions.58
In this study, nearly eight in ten formerly incarcerated individuals (79%) reported either being
ineligible for or denied housing because of their
conviction history. As one focus group participant
from Wichita, Kansas, shared, “All of the places
that I wanted to live—that were nice and where I
could raise kids told me ‘no.’ So I ended up where
I am now, in a rundown four-plex that’s a slum
with moldy walls.” The vast majority of survey
respondents (72%) identified the unavailability of
affordable housing as one of the most important
barriers to securing stable housing. This figure was
higher for formerly incarcerated women (79%).
For most, family members are the first and most
fundamental source of housing support at the
time of release. Our survey found that two-thirds
of formerly incarcerated individuals (67%) turned
to family members for support in finding housing

“I am not a prison wife.”
—Shamika Wilson
Incarceration has always been a part of my
life—from brothers, to uncles, to cousins and
my husband, who has been incarcerated for
almost 30 years.
My grandfather grew up without a father.
My father grew up without his father. I
grew up without my father. My two children
are now growing up without their father. It
hurts because a part of my family has been
stripped away; my family has literally been
broken apart.

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after release. More than half (58%) lived with family members when they returned to the community.
Yet for many families, providing support to loved
ones returning to the community results in loss or
insecurity of their own housing, or barriers to being
reunited with loved ones. All together, roughly
one in five families (18%) reported being evicted or
denied housing when their formerly incarcerated
family member returned. Finally, many survey participants (16%) also reported being unable to live
with family members when they returned because
of the risk to family housing security posed by their
system involvement.
The culmination of barriers facing formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones plummet families
into deeper realms of poverty with little chance
of success during the period of incarceration and
often for years thereafter. The level of strain and
stress these financial barriers produce undoubtedly impacts the ability of families to maintain contact
and healthy relationships for generations.

My husband isn’t the only person locked
up; with an incarcerated loved one I also
feel like I’ve been doing time for the last 30
years. Society instills a sense of “guilt-by-association” that I am forced to live with. I’ve
experienced the stigma associated with
women who have incarcerated loved ones,
which leads to additional pain, sadness, and
isolation.
Often times I feel alone and incomplete,
living inside of two separate worlds. I go to
visit my husband in an unwelcoming environment, where I too am treated like an
inmate. I see my husband, who is now 55,
with a number of health issues—from thyroid
cancer to spinal injuries—which have been
made worse since he entered prison. He is

Challenges to Building Economic Stability

also now disabled. Our time is always too short. I return
home to more than $45,000 worth of college loans,
court fees, and seemingly unnecessary fines, on top
of rent to pay, children to support, and class work to
complete.
I work day in and day out to support my husband and to keep my family from falling within
the same cycles of abuse, poverty, and
negativity that have loomed so heavily
over our lives. I’m working hard to earn
a Master’s Degree in Education at San
Francisco State University and I’m
part of the Essie Justice Group, which
supports and empowers women with
incarcerated loved ones.
Essie connects me to powerful women like me, and together, we advocate
for ourselves and for our loved ones.
Together we aim to change the way
people think about what it means to
have an incarcerated loved one. I am not
a prison wife, I am not married to the prison; I’m married to someone who is in prison.
I am educated. I am a mother, a friend, an
aunt, and a community leader.
I often think of what our lives will look like when
my husband comes home. He’s spent more of his
life incarcerated than he has with his family and in
his community where he belongs. He knows a side of
the world that is cruel and unmerciful, yet he chooses
to know a part of the world that is compassionate and
forgiving. My hope is that he won’t continue to face
punishment for something he’s already served time
for, so that he can have the joyful life he has wanted
for so many years.
Change requires hard work, but if we can change the
way society views and treats families with incarcerated
loved ones, the work will be worth it.
— Shamika, Redwood City, CA

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

CHALLENGES TO MAINTAINING RELATIONSHIPS AND FAMILY STABILITY
Key Findings: The importance of maintaining contact with family throughout incarceration is well
understood and accepted. In addition to improving chances of successful reentry, maintaining
contact with family during incarceration has been
shown to significantly reduce chances of recidivism.59 Many participants in this study shared the
tremendous lengths to which they went in order to
maintain contact with loved ones inside, despite
their precarious circumstances. They also shared
the importance of this contact to the well-being
of family members both inside and out, and both
during and after incarceration.
Research for this report also found that the high
cost of phone calls and visitation presented a
major barrier to families remaining connected
during the period of incarceration. Many families
went into debt to remain in contact, or fell out of
contact with loved ones because they were unable
to sustain the costs. Dollar amounts were far from
the only challenge families faced in remaining
in contact, with many families experiencing the

intergenerational effects of physical and sometimes permanent legal separation of parents and
children.

“I know I’ll do what I have to do, but
they make it so hard for you. I witnessed
it with my sons. It’s hard because you
have to break down with the children
that you have at home how they can
help with everyday living. You know, it’s
‘some weeks we can’t do this because
I have to send this here.’ To make sure
that they are okay, too, because they
are still my children. I’m going to be here
for them forever. As long as I got breath
in my body I’m going to be here for my
sons, whatever the situation is. But they
don’t make it easy for you.”
—Family member, Washington DC

Costs of Maintaining Contact
The prison communications industry has made the
cost of phone calls the most significant barrier to
family contact during incarceration. Until recently, a few private telecommunications corporations
had an unregulated monopoly on providing phone
service in prisons, allowing them to gouge families
with high prices and fees. The Prison Policy Initiative estimated that added fees made up more than
a third of the annual $1 billion that families pay to
call family members in prison.60 In 2013, under the
pressure of prisoner advocacy groups, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) placed
an interstate rate cap on phone companies, both
lowering rates from $17 to $3.75 for a 15-minute
call and banning additional fees to connect calls.61
However, this much-needed regulation does not
go far enough to lower the cost of phone calls for
families contacting loved ones within a state as the
vast majority of calls from detention facilities are
made within the same state (intrastate).62

“It hurt because my mother out of her
love wanted to constantly send me
packages and do things and so she
would not pay some of her bills or not
buys things that she needed for herself.
If you figure even a low-end package,
it can be a hundred bucks and she was
making sure every quarter she was
sending it. Then they stopped allowing
your family to go to the stores and buy
whatever they can afford and send it to
you, they started using catalogues—but
the prices were two to three times the
price. So it really had a great impact
when I’m hearing that they’re sending
me quarter packages and then I found
out my brother and my mother are out
there eating cup ramen.”
—Formerly incarcerated person, Oakland

For many families, the cost of travel and availability of transportation are also important barriers
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Challenges to Maintaining Relationships and Family Stability

to maintaining contact, particularly when family
members are incarcerated far from their community. Some states also charge “background check
fees” for visitors of incarcerated family members.
Arizona, for example, charges adults a one-time
$25 “background check fee” to visit family members in Arizona state prisons. One report found
these fees are often used to cover budget shortfalls for building maintenance of the state’s
numerous prison facilities rather than for the background check.63

visit family members housed far from their communities. The most frequent barriers identified by
survey participants to maintaining contact with
incarcerated family members include the cost of
phone calls (69%), distance to location of family
member (47%), and visitation-related costs (46%).
As one formerly incarcerated individual shared,
“I didn’t call very much because I know it cost
my family a lot of money. As the guards say, they
get money when we use the phone. So we get
gouged, your family gets gouged.”

The costs associated with incarceration—including the costs of calls, visitation, commissary,
health care, and other costs—are borne by individuals with convictions and their families. This study
found that it is family members, predominantly
women in the family, who primarily bear responsibility for the financial costs of maintaining contact.
Eighty-two percent of survey participants reported that family members were primarily responsible
for phone and visitation costs. Of the family members who were responsible for the costs, 87%
were women.

The financial consequences can be devastating.
One in three families (34%) reported going into
debt to pay for phone calls or visitation. Families
are often forced to choose between supporting incarcerated loved ones and meeting the
basic needs of family members who are outside.
Research conducted with visitors at San Quentin
State Prison in California had similar results. The
majority of women in that study reported spending as much as one-third of their annual income to
maintain contact. For a number of these women,
including many who were mothers, these costs
put them into debt.64

The financial costs of maintaining contact are
often prohibitively expensive for families. Families
often pay exorbitant phone rates for minimal contact, or cover the costs of long-distance travel to

Beyond the high costs of maintaining contact, visitation is often so emotionally painful that family
members find it difficult to do so. Two in five survey

PHONE & VISITATION COSTS
were the top barrier for families trying
to stay in touch during incarceration.

More than 1 in 3

87%

survey participants went into
debt to cover phone and
visitation costs.

of
family members
responsible for
call and visitation
costs were women.

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

respondents identified emotional pain of seeing
a family member locked up as a barrier to visitation. Others describe the profound disrespect and
mistreatment that family members received; 17%
of survey participants reported that their family
members were mistreated or degraded when they
visited and identified this an important barrier to
remaining in contact. Survey respondents further
described harsh treatment from security guards
who subjected them to routine humiliations that
added to the difficulty of visiting with family. “My
kids tried to come up and visit and when they come
they’re treated as if they are criminals,” one formerly incarcerated mother said of the experiences her
children faced when visiting her. “They’re being
patted down, searched, walked through metal detectors, x-ray machines, hearing the gates
closed behind them and in front of them. They
are being talked down to by guards as if they did
something wrong.”
Research for this report demonstrates the major
barriers that cost presents to sustaining contact

during incarceration, the disproportionate weight
these costs place on women, and the exacerbation
of economic instability that families experience
as a result. Financial strains also take their toll
on family relationships. Despite evidence that
strong family relationships reduce recidivism, this
research points to substantial barriers to maintaining relationships that families face.65 It is clear that
baseline costs and fees associated with phone
calls must decrease or disappear, that incarcerated
people should be housed closer to their support
systems, and that visiting families must be treated with respect. Even if these crucial reforms are
made, the separation of people from their families will undoubtedly have adverse impacts and
should thus be avoided by keeping people in their
communities through alternatives to incarceration
like diversion programs. As one respondent in
California put it, “The system is created to separate
families. Neighbors should be able to take care of
children. People shouldn’t be moved great distances from families; children shouldn’t be separated.”

Family Separation
The separation caused by incarceration as well as
the barriers to sustaining meaningful contact while
incarcerated have been shown to impede reentry
and create profound challenges to family stability.66
While incarceration, by definition, forces the separation of families, the rapid increase in the number
of people locked up has facilitated the construction of massive prisons in remote rural towns and
forced thousands of people to be transferred to
out-of-state prisons where families cannot afford
even occasional visits. One formerly incarcerated
person in Oakland shared, “The distance and cost
was an enormous barrier. I was sentenced in 1992
and sent to Calipatria Prison near the Mexican border. My mother visited me for the first time in 2001
because she couldn’t afford to visit before.”
Marriages and intimate relationships also suffer
from forced separation. One study found that men
who were convicted and incarcerated were three
times more likely to divorce as men who were convicted but not incarcerated.67  In the research for
this report, nearly half of survey respondents (47%)
reported that members of their family separated,
divorced, or dissolved their partnership as a result

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“Being in contact with my family
grounded me. I knew I still had people
who loved me. It kept spirits up knowing
no one abandoned me, and kept up my
connection with the outside world. For
my family, they were able to make sure
I’m here, I’m alive, I’m not going crazy.
It was very important for family to know
this from phone calls and visits.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Los Angeles

“Not being able to talk with my family
kept me isolated from society. Not being
able to talk with family kept me from
being able to plan for my future after
prison.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Oakland

Challenges to Maintaining Relationships and Family Stability

of incarceration. This study also found evidence
that individuals with longer sentences were more
likely to experience the dissolution of relationships.
Separation from families is often enforced even
when people return home from prison. One survey respondent shared, “Three of my brothers
have been incarcerated. So when they were on
parole, they were spending time together. The
thing is you’re not supposed to be around other
people who are on parole, even if they’re family.
So there was an incident and the police came.
Since they were around each other, they were
sent back to jail.”
This study also indicates that while time apart, limited contact, and high costs can negatively impact
relational stability, maintaining contact with incarcerated loved ones can help sustain critical family
relationships. Families who were able to talk on
the phone were less likely to report experiencing
separation or divorce from partners or spouses,
damaged child-parent relationships, and sibling

“It instantly destroyed my family
because of the distance and the cost
associated with visiting and phone calls.
I suddenly became a dead person to
them. My parents subsequently died
during the time that I served, siblings
moved on to create their own families,
moved out of state. So that’s been
devastating.”
—Formerly incarcerated person, New
Orleans

separation. Families who were able to stay in regular contact were also more likely to report that
family relationships became stronger. This finding supports policy that would reduce costs and
barriers to maintaining contact as a method of
improving family relationships.

Art by Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

Parent - Child Relationships
According to a 2010 study, nearly three million
children in America have at least one parent in prison, and children of color are far more likely than
white children to have an incarcerated parent.68
Research also suggests that the majority of incarcerated women are parents (an estimated 60% to
80%),69 and that approximately 60% of men in federal prison and 70% of men in correctional facilities
aged 33 to 40 are also parents.70
Parental incarceration increases the risk of children living in poverty or experiencing household
instability, independent of any other factors
present in a young person’s life.71 The impacts of
incarceration on economic stability, health, education, and well-being also disproportionately affect
young people who live in communities devastated by decades of unjust criminal justice policies
that have had strong intergenerational impacts.72
New research suggests that recent parental incarceration drastically increases the risk of child
homelessness due to the loss of financial resources

Art by Melanie Cervantes

33

“My relationship with my daughter
was damaged and she wouldn’t
speak to me for ten years. We’ve
just recently started to rebuild our
relationship.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Rhode Island

and/or mental strain placed on resident parents or
guardians.73 These outcomes are unevenly distributed with African American youth as much as 65%
more likely than white youth to become homeless
as a result of a parent going to prison.74
The combined impacts of parental incarceration
on children are lifelong and can be devastating to
their future health and well-being. Research has
also found children with an incarcerated parent are
significantly less likely to complete high school.75 In
this report’s study, one in ten families reported that

Challenges to Maintaining Relationships and Family Stability

young people in the family were unable to complete high school or go to college because of the
incarceration of a family member.
Many incarcerated parents unwillingly lose custody of their children or suffer permanent termination
of parental rights. The 1997 Adoption and Safe
Families Act (ASFA) states that parents whose children have been placed in foster care for 15 months
will have their parental rights terminated unless
they meet certain criteria, such as providing secure
housing for their children.76 Given the average
sentence served by incarcerated parents is 6.5
years,77 ASFA’s 15-month statute for termination
jeopardizes the parental rights of many incarcerated parents. In the study conducted for this report,
39% of formerly incarcerated parents either lost
custody or had their parental rights terminated.
Parental incarceration often displaces children,
leaving other family or community members as the
primary support system for these children, or pushing children into foster care or unstable situations.
Family members, including extended family, were
the first line of support, with 66% of children in this
study reported as able to remain in the home of
another parent and 36% able to live with another
family member.
Yet children of incarcerated parents must also deal
with the loss of that parent, and the financial, physical, and emotional instability that often results. As
a family member from Oakland shared, “Not being
able to talk to my dad took a toll on all the family. I was depressed and gained weight. My sister
started to do poorly in school and got kicked out a
lot. We were lonely, not being able to see my dad.”
Often the strain of incarceration can permanently
damage parent-child relationships.
Research for this report found evidence that
incarceration not only breaks up marriages and
partnerships, separating parents, it also separates parents from children. Thirty-eight percent
of survey respondents reported that incarceration
damaged parent-child relationships in the family.
Families are a source of stability for individuals
and communities and yet families are struggling
to maintain stability and relationships when loved
ones are locked away. The ripple effects of incarceration on relationships and family stability reach
across generations. The criminal justice system’s

“The telephone rates are terrible and
unfair. How can the prisons steal
legally from the families (the other
victims)? What about the children
who need to hear from their parent
on a regular basis? Ridiculous.”
—Family member, Virginia

“My biggest challenge was
repairing relationships between me
and my children. I remember the
conversation I had with my second
oldest daughter and she said, ‘well
daddy, you’ve never been around.
You’ve never really been here. You’ve
always been in the streets or you’re
in jail.’ So my biggest challenge was
trying to let them know that, ‘I do
love you all. I do want to be in your
lives.’”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Wichita, Kansas

punitive approach creates significant barriers to the
maintenance of familial relationships while a family member is incarcerated. The separation caused
by incarceration has long-term intergenerational
effects on family relationships and opportunities
that are deeply damaging to building strong families and strong communities. At the same time,
ensuring that incarcerated parents can retain that
aspect of their identity—as parents—may be crucial to their rehabilitation and successful reentry.
Studies have shown that the substance use and
criminal activity of mothers, in particular, decreases with parental responsibility.78 States are also
experimenting with diversion programs for parents
that provide the kind of support people need to
provide for and participate in their families.79

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

“We need to stop the
revolving door.”
—Milan Nicole Sherry

Coming into my young womanhood, I had to search hard
for community—to find other girls who looked like me. I
have been privileged to have a family that largely supported my transition and my self-expression, but it wasn’t
easy. Despite some of my family being supportive, I withstood harsh verbal abuse from my father, which stays with
me to this day.
Growing up in Louisiana, my family was low income and we
received government assistance. As one of ten children,
my mother, although affectionate and understanding,
simply didn’t have the money to bail me out of jail. I could
see that my mother was more scared for me than I was
for myself.
Most trans women of color who are incarcerated are
sent to jail for “survival crimes.” Actions linked with sex
work or simple robbery, which are too often our only
means of feeding ourselves and securing shelter.
The discrimination that I faced on a daily basis was
intensified when I was incarcerated in a men’s jail in
New Orleans. With little to no interaction with sunlight and unsanitary, unlivable conditions, my days
in jail felt doubled.
Hormone medications, which some trans women
need to maintain our health, are strictly prohibited. The stigma that “being trans is a choice”
upholds the rigid denial of hormones in jail. I
was forced to stop my treatment and unwillingly went through changes as a result of being
denied the medication my body needed.
I was placed in a hostile environment with
men who forced me to fight every single
day. I had to fight off intimidation and
sexual violence many times, enduring
sexual harassment, especially in places like the showers where there was
little to no privacy. I was in a constant
state of fear and concern for my health,
knowing that the sexual violations and
survival sex work that I underwent in jail
put me at risk for infection and sexually
transmitted diseases, not to mention the
emotional trauma.

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Challenges to Maintaining Relationships and Family Stability

When I filed grievances to the chief about the serious crimes I experienced in jail, the issue would be
discussed, and I would just be removed to another
setting, where the same dangers—or worse—existed, and I continued to be assaulted.
Clearly, other incarcerated people were not the
only ones doing harm. Deputy officers, sheriffs,
guards, and other employees constantly acted on
their prejudices against me. More often than not
my personal use of women’s pronouns would not
be respected and officers undermined my identity
and made it possible for the discrimination to persist during every stage of incarceration.
I was emotionally traumatized and mentally damaged going into jail, and even more so coming out
of jail.
After my involvement with the prison system, I
returned to a world where I still needed to protect
myself from hate and violence in order to ensure
my survival. During job interviews when a potential employer realized I’m trans, the energy of the
room changed and immediately the interview went
downhill.

To me it is so clear why there is such a revolving
door for trans women of color who find ourselves
in and out of jail as we persist to find security and
meet basic needs.
I now fight endlessly for those who don’t have the
energy to fight anymore. I’m a founding member
and volunteer of BreakOUT!, where I advocate
for and provide mentorship for trans women of
color. Through my journey and organizing career,
I encourage others in my community to seek
resources for survival and continue to plan for a life
of challenges.
As Black trans women, we are constantly told that
we are unworthy to be loved, unworthy to get an
education, unworthy to get respect and to even live.
My goal is to get girls like me to think: Who’s going
to hire me? How am I going to live, to survive? And
to tell them, “I am here for you.” I encourage others
to do the same. Whether it’s offering a shower, a
place to stay, a meal or health care—anyone can
offer support to a trans woman of color who faces
experiences like mine.  
—Milan, New Orleans, LA

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

CHALLENGES TO HEALTH DURING INCARCERATION AND BEYOND
Key Findings: The stress, stigma, and high costs
of incarceration impact the health of all family members, including children of incarcerated
individuals.80 Some health impacts are directly
related to incarceration, but many are linked to the
economic instability, mental health shocks, and
emotional trauma that continue long after imprisonment. These negative health impacts can have
intergenerational and community-wide effects,
leaving neighborhoods struggling under the multiple burdens of poverty, debt, trauma, and loss of
opportunities.
Two-thirds of survey respondents for this report’s
study stated that both incarcerated family members,
as well as family members outside, experienced
negative health impacts related to incarceration.
This research also found that families that were
able to maintain regular contact during incarceration were less likely to experience negative health
impacts associated with incarceration.

“I had a hernia operation and I felt
like they just wanted to get me in and
out. I was hospitalized four or five
times, didn’t get it cleared up. I would
essentially throw up for 20 hours
straight. They couldn’t deal with it.
When I got here on the street they
looked at it and said, ‘Who did this?’
I said, ‘You don’t even want to know.’
In prison they didn’t care about what I
needed to heal ... I’ve been home damn
near five years now and I still don’t sleep
more than two hours at a time.... it’s
funny how jail can condition you. It’s all
because of whatever emotional scars
that incarceration has put upon you.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Washington DC

Health Impacts of Incarceration
Incarceration has devastating physical, mental, and
emotional health impacts on individuals, including
those who already faced health problems before
entering the system.81 People who are incarcerated
are also likely to suffer from higher rates of chronic disease.82 As a result, incarcerated people’s
health generally suffers while in prison and jail.
In the research for this report, the majority of survey respondents (66%) reported negative health
impacts that they or their family members experienced associated with incarceration. Although
the figures were higher for formerly incarcerated
individuals, the research group found that both family members and their formerly incarcerated loved
ones experienced negative health impacts that
they attributed to incarceration. Family members
frequently described experiences of depression,
anxiety, chronic stress, and other chronic health
issues associated with concern for and support of
their incarcerated loved ones, as well as a result of
their struggles to sustain their families.
In some cases—those with mental health problems
in particular—people are imprisoned rather than

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37

“My back hurts when we drive over
there to go visit him at Pelican Bay 9
hours away. Also it was very hard when
they were in the hunger strikes—my
son was not eating. Since 2011 they
had three strikes and he did all three
of them. And since 2011 I have lost 40
pounds because I think I spend so much
time thinking about him and talking to
him and not eating. It would make me
very sad. I was at work and I couldn’t
even work, but thank God for my boss.
He also has a lot of faith in God and
does not like the conditions of the
prisons. So he gave me a lot of chances,
but I could not concentrate or anything.
My back was hurting, my nerves were
bad. All these things affect us a lot.”
—Family member, Los Angeles

Challenges to Health During Incarceration and Beyond

treated as a solution for their condition. Prisons
and jails have become the nation’s largest standin mental health provider.83 Over half of the people
in U.S. jails and prisons suffer from mental health
issues and these issues are often exacerbated
during imprisonment because prisons and jails
are unequipped to provide adequate or appropriate health services and treatment.84 The rates of
substance abuse disorders are also much higher among incarcerated populations due to the
criminalization of drug addiction and the lack of
community-based treatment providers.85 Many
incarcerated people suffer from the cumulative
effects of untreated or poorly treated mental health
and substance abuse disorders. In the research
for this report, many individuals shared their experiences of worsening pre-existing mental health
conditions while incarcerated.

“I think that they need to expose in the
women’s prison the percentage, how
many women are committing suicide. It
happens a lot more often than the public
knows and they cover it up. The most
recent one was last year and a little girl
named Precious she killed herself. She
was only 18 years old, but I could think
of five people that I knew on a personal
level that committed suicide while in
prison. It’s devastating and I think that
when it happens they just sweep it
under the rug.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Portland

Additionally, the majority of survey respondents
experienced negative mental health impacts as
a result of incarceration, including depression,
anxiety, PTSD, and separation disorder. Many
attributed their experiences to prison conditions,
including violence or abuse they faced, as well as
psychologically harmful conditions. Among these,
overcrowding and solitary confinement are both
notorious and have well-documented negative
health impacts.86

“I have severe PTSD. To this day I
cannot sleep more than six hours, I
wake up in a panic six days out of the
week if not every night. Every facet of
my life has a doomsday component. If
I don’t do everything according to how
it is in my head then it’ll result in death,
prison, or being penniless and my family
will be out on the street with nothing.
And I believe that it’s connected to
my incarceration and experiencing a
decade of physical attack.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
California

Survey participants also shared the cumulative
acute and chronic health issues they experienced
because of poor prison conditions, including violence, lack of exercise, and poor diet.
Often incarcerated people who need health care
services cannot afford the prison copayment fees
and turn to family members for help with paying them.87 Through the Federal Prisoner Health
Care Copayment Act, incarcerated people are
required to cover copayments for prison health
care services.88 Currently, all federal prisons and
three-quarters of state correctional facilities have
copayment schemes.89 As is the case with many of
the fees imposed on the incarcerated, not all of the
charges are used to cover the cost of the service.
Fees collected under the Federal Prisoner Health
Care Copayment Act are used to pay restitution
and administrative costs and can be directed to
the federal Crime Victims Fund, and used for victim restitution and administrative costs, instead of
paying for the cost of health care.90
In this study, researchers found that incarcerated individuals reported lack of access to quality
health care while inside, which sometimes resulted in permanent consequences. Many people
who are incarcerated avoid medical procedures,
partly due to cost and partly because of the poor
treatment they receive. Some survey respondents
felt they were only able to address health issues
when they came out of incarceration. “You didn’t
get the health care that you needed in prison and

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

even if you did, you would have to pay for that. I’ve
seen people die in prison because they didn’t get
the health care they needed. I’ve seen the guards
just pass them by when they needed health care,”
one formerly incarcerated person from Wichita,
Kansas said. “So the cost, like I said, it can amount
to your life. You can lose your life in prison literally
because of the health care.”
Incarceration also has negative impacts on families’ health. Survey data for this report show that
family members who supported their loved ones
through incarceration also experience trauma and
long-term stress that can result in mental health
issues and physical health conditions. As one
mother reported, her health dramatically deteriorated as a result of her sons’ experience with the
system: “When my son was first arrested and incarcerated, I couldn’t work for 2 years. I had to apply
for disability. I had to go on all kinds of medication
for manic depression, anxiety, and it really affected
my health,” she said. “Then I had a son that was
killed—New Orleans police department shot my
son in the back. So I lost two children in one year
to the system and I think that’s wrong.”
In fact, a majority of survey respondents (66%)
reported negative health impacts that family members experienced associated with incarceration.
Additionally, survey data shows that families that
reported they were able to stay in regular contact,
through visits or with phone calls, were less likely
to report negative health impacts that they associated with incarceration.
Survey and focus group participants shared that
health impacts in their families were intergenerational and sometimes had the most severe
consequences for children of incarcerated parents.
Research has also shown that the stress and trauma associated with having a parent in prison, along
with the loss of financial resources due to parental
incarceration, can carry significant consequences
for the physical and mental health of youth.91 As a
Michigan grandmother recounted, “his second son
had mental health and anger issues as a result of
his father’s incarceration, and when the state took
them away from their mother, the children were
traumatized. Their mother threatened to sue the
foster care agency in order to get therapy for the
children after they were taken by the state, and
finally later they were released into her custody.”

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39

“Using the top bunk for 20 years or
more affected my neck, and this has
induced frequent migraines. The poor
dental care resulted in extraction, and
I’m waiting on getting a deep clean. The
high level of violence curtailed my ability
to exercise regularly, and this narrowed
my blood vessels. Peripheral Artery
Disease (PAD) has been diagnosed. The
daily diet of bread and potatoes two
times a day made it hard to maintain my
health.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Michigan

“I suffered from something similar to
post-traumatic stress. I suffered from
sensory deprivation. I would spend
long hours in 23-hour lock-up, with
no human contact, no socialization,
no opportunities for education or
recreation, for about 14 years. You’re
damaged, but with a loving supportive
family I was able to learn reentry skills.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Rhode Island

Incarcerated people and their families suffer grave
physical, mental, and emotional trauma as a result
of being criminalized and locked up. Many studies
have demonstrated that incarceration is a significant social determinant of health.92 Incarcerated
individuals and families experience severe mental health consequences related to incarceration,
including depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Far from
treating illnesses, jails and prisons create and
exacerbate them, while reentry programs do little
to support families to heal upon their loved one’s
release. Better approaches exist and are possible.
Solutions that prioritize healthy, stable families,
accountability and rehabilitation, and restoration of
opportunities must be implemented for communities to thrive.

Challenges to Health During Incarceration and Beyond

SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH
According the World Health Organization the social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, including the health system.
Social determinants of health have a powerful impact on health outcomes, and are shaped
by the unequal distribution of money and power, inequities reinforced through policy.a
Communities of color, women, and low-income communities in the United States suffer
from poorer health outcomes than the rest of society. This is partly because the health of
an individual is impacted by their exposure to multiple environmental and social stressors.b Poor housing, lack of health care, family instability, social and economic inequality,
and mental health issues are a few of the negative health exposures and social stressors
that increase one’s vulnerability to poor health outcomes. Incarceration and consequences
exacerbate health risks for people who are already vulnerable to poorer health outcomes.c
These negative health impacts also affect the families and communities of the incarcerated.
a.	World Health Organization. “Social Determinants of Health.” n.d. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
b.	Morello-Frosh, Rachel, et al. “Understanding the cumulative impacts of inequalities in environmental health:
implications for policy.” Health Affairs 30.5 (2001): 879–887. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
c.	Gilhuly, Kim, et al. Healthier Lives, Stronger Families, Safer Communities: How Increasing Funding for Alternatives
to Prison Will Save Lives and Money in Wisconsin. Human Impact Partners, WISDOM, 2012. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
Smith, Amy. Health and Incarceration: A Workshop Summary. National Academy of Sciences, 2013; Restum,
Zulficar Gregory. “Public Health Implications of Substandard Correctional Health Care.” American Journal of
Public Health 95.10 (October 2005): 1689–91. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. Turney, Kristin. “Stress Proliferation across
Generations? Examining the Relationship between Parental Incarceration and Childhood Health.” Journal of
Health and Social Behavior 55.3 (1 Sept. 2014): 302–19. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

RECOMMENDATIONS
Three major categories of reform are proposed to
help stabilize vulnerable families and communities
and to create opportunities for systems change.
These categories correlate with policy reforms that
must occur in order to create more stability and
security for the communities that face intergenerational consequences from 40 years of short-sighted
and devastating criminal justice policies. The recommendations stem from survey respondents who
have direct experience with the criminal justice

system, the majority of whom are actively involved
in community social and political life. Each section
aims to dramatically reduce the number of people
in jails and prisons, as well as decrease the destabilizing financial and other impacts of incarceration
on families. The recommendations also aim to get
individuals and families to a place of stability after
incarceration, and to strengthen communities from
the ground up.

1. RESTRUCTURE AND REINVEST
By restructuring our criminal justice policies and
practices, the more than $80 billion spent annually on our nation’s criminal justice system can be
redistributed into programs and services proven
to reduce crime and recidivism. Following the lead
of states like California, all states need to restructure their policies to reduce the number of people
in jails and prisons and the sentences they serve.
The money saved from reduced incarceration rates
can be used instead as reinvestments in substance
abuse programs and stable housing, proven to
reduce recidivism rates.
Additionally, we need to shift our sentences to
focus more on accountability, safety, and healing of
all individuals involved rather than punishing those
convicted of crimes.
Sentencing Reform: Reforms that reduce the
number of people in prison and their time inside
should be implemented immediately. Funds saved
from reduced sentencing should then be invested into education, health, and other services,
like substance abuse programs, that are needed in communities with high incarceration rates.
California has already undertaken such an effort.
In 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47,
or the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. The
Act reclassified six non-violent offenses from felony charges to misdemeanors to help individuals
move past burdensome charges on their records
and access jobs, housing, and education that

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might help them in the future. The reduced charges
include: receiving stolen property, theft, and check
fraud under $950, as well as drug possession/
use. The Act is estimated to save the state $200
million per year and save counties several hundreds of millions per year in jail and prison costs,
a portion of which to be redistributed towards
school truancy and dropout prevention, mental
health and substance abuse treatment, and victim
services.93 As of March 2015, 2,700 people have
been released from state prison due to the Act.94
Similarly, the Reclassification to Ensure Smarter
and Equal Treatment Act of 2015 (RESET Act) was
introduced in Congress in April 2015. If passed,
this act would reclassify certain low-level felonies
as misdemeanors and eliminate disparities in crack
and powder cocaine sentencing. Money that is
saved from prison costs would be redirected to the
Department of Education, Federal Crime Victim
Assistance Fund, Federal Reentry/Drug Court programs, and the General Treasury to help pay down
the national debt.95
Pre-Trial Diversion: Current criminal justice policies
prioritize the goal of punishing the person convicted of a crime over other considerations, including
the needs of the people harmed by the crime. This
often means that the person who committed the
crime is punished rather than held accountable
by those harmed, and that the needs of the victim
are not considered or met. This approach should
be restructured to prioritize accountability, safety,

Recommendations

and healing. One example of such a program is
Common Justice, an innovative victim service
and alternative-to-incarceration program based in
Brooklyn, NY, focused on restorative justice principles. The program works with young people aged
16 to 24 years old who commit violent felonies and
the victims of those crimes. Common Justice aims
to reduce violence, facilitate the well-being of victims, and transform the criminal justice system’s
response to serious crime.96 Diversion programs
like Common Justice provide a model for programs
that can effectively use public dollars to reduce the
number of people entering prison and develop
more effective alternatives for dealing with crime.
Pretrial Custody Reform: Currently, six out of ten
incarcerated individuals in the United States are
held in pretrial detention without convictions.97
In some states, this number is as high as 62% of
the county jail population.98 The American Bar
Association Criminal Justice Standards for Pretrial
Release state that “[r]elease on financial conditions
should be used only when no other conditions
will ensure appearance.”99 Federal law assumes
the same.100 Some states, such as Kentucky, are
already trying to make changes to their pretrial
policies.101 Kentucky now allows for nonfinancial
pretrial release for bail-able offenses after assessing public safety and flight risk within 12 to 24 hours
of arrest.102 San Francisco’s Own Recognizance

Project assesses probable cause for the incarceration of individuals within 48 hours of booking;
if probable cause doesn’t exist, the person is
released.103 New Jersey recently passed S594, legislation that reforms the pretrial process with the
presumption of nonfinancial release.104 Following
the lead of these states, non-financial release
should be the primary method of pretrial release in
all states in order to reduce the population of pretrial detention and ensure families accrue less debt
due to their loved one’s arrest or incarceration.
Top Priorities for Community Reinvestment
Education

86%

Job training, job creation & job placement

72%

Affordable housing

69%

Alternatives to incarceration

64%

Drug and alcohol programs

60%

Social Services for families

54%

After school & youth programs

52%

Mental heath programs

51%

Health care

48%

*Respondents identified their top three priorities

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

2. REMOVE BARRIERS
Upon release from jail and prison, formerly incarcerated individuals often face a number of barriers related to housing, employment, and public
assistance that make it even more challenging for
them to successfully reenter society. As discussed
earlier, many are denied public benefits like food
stamps and most are unable to pursue training or
education that would provide improved opportunities for the future. To allow individuals a shot at successful reentry, these barriers must be removed,
particularly those outstanding and substantial
financial obligations that prevent individuals and
their families from becoming stable.
Housing: Stable housing is critical to ensuring formerly incarcerated individuals have a chance at
successful reentry, but a number of barriers prevent them from accessing a safe place to live or
assistance to pay their rent. While the Department
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires criminal background checks and excludes
individuals that are registered sex offenders or
were convicted of producing methamphetamine
from public housing assistance, each local public
housing authority has the discretion to evaluate
individuals case by case for all other offenses.105

BARRIERS TO STABILITY

This discretion has resulted in blanket denials
of housing applications from people with criminal records and use of inconsistent, subjective
standards that have discouraged qualified people from applying for housing assistance. These
policies have made it incredibly difficult for formerly incarcerated people to find housing and
reunite with their families after jail or prison.
We recommend the following specific policy reforms to make housing more accessible for formerly incarcerated people:
•	 The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Local Public Housing
Authorities: HUD should provide leadership in
bringing fair, uniform standards to the review
and consideration of public housing applications
nationally by eliminating or repealing long “look
back” periods that local housing agencies use
to disqualify individuals with criminal records.
HUD and local agencies should also exclude
the consideration of arrests and convictions in
determining whether a person is eligible for public housing assistance. Many municipalities have
done this. In April 2015, the Los Angeles County
Board of Supervisors voted to ease restrictions

HEALTHCARE
EMPLOYMENT

There are more than
44,000 local, state, and
federal restrictions
placed on people with
convictions.a

VOTING
HOUSING

STUDENT
LOANS
FOOD
TRAVEL

a. American Bar Association Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.

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Recommendations

HOUSING AND
BASIC NEEDS

1 in 5

formerly incarcerated
survey participants who
sought support were denied
public benefits like food
stamps after release—
a third of these were
families with children
living in the home.

79% of

formerly incarcerated
women reported they
were unable to afford
housing after release.

on people with drug convictions more than two
years old so they could access housing benefits
and to allow people who are currently on probation or parole to be eligible for public housing
assistance.106
•	 Local Municipalities: Local Municipalities should
pass Local Anti-Discrimination Ordinances in the
housing context that prohibit housing discrimination against individuals with an arrest or conviction record. Several jurisdictions in Wisconsin
and Illinois have passed such ordinances to protect formerly incarcerated people from housing
discrimination.107

policies, with seven states requiring both private
and public employers to remove the box from
employment applications. Other states and the
federal government should also pass these policies to provide people with past convictions a
fair opportunity to work.

Employment: Formerly incarcerated individuals
often struggle to find work upon release due to
a number of barriers. Studies show that 60% of
formerly incarcerated individuals cannot find employment one year after release. Expanding employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated
people would increase economic stability for families and reduce the rates of recidivism and crime.

•	 Professional Licensing: States and municipalities
should also change licensing laws that prohibit
people with convictions from working in many
professions. Similar to “Ban the Box” policies,
the box requiring applicants to disclose convictions on applications for professional licenses
should also be removed. Arrests, misdemeanors
for which no jail time is required, and convictions
that have been sealed, dismissed, or expunged
should not be considered at all. Other convictions that are relevant to the profession could be
considered after it is determined that the applicant is eligible for licensing. In 2012, Ohio passed
state legislation that removed licensing prohibitions for some occupations to widen access to
employment for people with convictions.

•	 Fair Chance Hiring: Removing the box on applications that requires applicants to disclose their
past criminal convictions is a growing trend in
states and cities across the country. Over 100
cities and 18 states have passed “Ban the Box”

Public Benefits: As a result of their past convictions, formerly incarcerated individuals are typically
denied access to benefits like education loans and
food assistance that would provide critical support
they need to improve their situation.

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

•	 Pell Grants: Congress banned access to Pell
Grants for people in prison in 1994. The Restoring Education and Learning Act (REAL Act),
introduced in Congress in May 2015, would lift
the ban on Pell Grants for people in state and
federal prisons, enabling people in prison to
access educational opportunities when they
return to society. These reforms should go further to restore access to Pell Grants for people who were convicted of drug felonies while
receiving federal aid.
•	 Support for Necessities: On the federal level,
Congress should repeal the drug felony ban
on access to welfare benefits and food stamps,
which denies social assistance to thousands of
individuals.108 It is clear that women and people
of color bear the brunt of the harm caused by the
denial of public welfare benefits109 due to how
race and gender are linked to the criminalization
of drug use.110 Since states are not required to
enforce this federal ban, while it remains states
should opt out of it or modify the restrictions on
these programs so that formerly incarcerated
individuals can regain access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

EDUCATION

3 in 5 formerly incarcerated survey
participants were unable to afford
returning to school.

1 in 4 were denied or
barred from educational
loans because of their
conviction.

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•	 Legal Financial Obligations: States should
implement reforms to reduce Legal Financial
Obligations (LFOs), or the fees associated with
conviction and imprisonment, so formerly incarcerated people have a fair chance at reentry. For
example, if passed, House Bill 1390, introduced
in Washington state in 2015 would prioritize restitution payments, eliminate interest on LFOs, and
prohibit the state from imposing discretionary
court costs on indigent defendants. The bill also
prohibits the state from jailing homeless people
and people with mental illnesses due to their
inability to pay LFOs. Many parents who were
formerly incarcerated owe thousands of dollars
in child support debt upon release from prison.
Failure to pay this debt can lead to additional
consequences that impede successful reentry,
including subsequent incarceration. To increase
family stability and the chances for successful
reentry, states should allow noncustodial parents who have no assets or income to modify
their child support orders when they are incarcerated. States should also notify child support
collection agents when a noncustodial parent
has been incarcerated, and work with custodial
parents to determine appropriate child support
orders during the period of incarceration.

While

67% of formerly

incarcerated survey
participants
reported that they
wanted to return to
school, only 27%
were able to.

Recommendations

Make family visiting accessible, affordable, and
frequent: Studies from 1972 to today have found
that maintaining close contact with family members on the outside greatly improves the health
and reentry success of incarcerated people.111 Data
collected in this study, as with many other studies,
shows a positive relationship between regular family visits and phone calls and people’s health and
well-being. To maintain relationships, support the
health and well-being of families inside and outside bars, reduce recidivism, and improve chances
of successful reunification and reentry, state and
local facilities should implement a combination of
policies and programs to make it possible for families to maintain contact.
•	 Visitation: Priorities for policy and practice involving visitation can include increasing visiting
hours, allowing overnight family visiting, considering furloughs so incarcerated people can
visit their families on the outside, lifting visitation bans for people with convictions, allowing
3rd party or chosen guardian visitation, and considering family connection as a factor in jail or

prison placement (prohibit housing people more
than 200 miles from designated family). Video
conferencing should be considered an additional
option, not a replacement for in-person visitation
and should also be free from additional commissions, corporate kickbacks, and fees.
•	 Phone calls: With fees from private companies
making up a third of all costs families are paying
for phone calls, eliminating these commissions is
critical to making calls affordable. In 2007, led by
the New York Campaign for Telephone Justice,
New York State began using the state’s general fund to cover prison budget gaps rather than
saddling vulnerable families with those costs
through phone fees. This effectively ended the
“kickback contract” between the private phone
company MCI and the New York State Department of Correctional Services. California, New
Mexico, Nebraska, and Michigan are among
nine states that have ended kickbacks to private
companies and reduced the cost of a 15-minute
phone call to as low as 66 cents.

3. RESTORE OPPORTUNITIES
By focusing energy on investing and supporting
formerly incarcerated individuals, their families,
and the communities from which they come, their
opportunities for a brighter future and the ability to
participate in society at large are restored. Releasing earlier those who meet requirements and properly preparing them for reentry are a cost-saving
place to start. Further, savings from criminal justice
reforms should be combined with general budget
allocations and invested in programs that help individuals and their families succeed prior to system
involvement and upon reentry.
Earned Time Credits: Some jurisdictions allow
people in prison and on parole to earn “credits”
or time off their sentences by complying with prison rules or parole requirements. This provides
an incentive for people in prison to comply with
rules and allows states to save money by reducing
sentences. States should implement earned time
credit programs so people in prison, on probation
or parole can earn time credits for good behavior,

work assignments, and participation in educational and other programming. Congress should pass
legislation to clarify the way that credit should be
counted by the Board of Prisons to allow people
in federal prisons to earn the full 54 days of good
conduct time each year as provided for in 18 U.S.C.
§ 3624(b).112 The implementation and expansion of
earned time credits would also reduce the amount
of time that people spend in prisons and on community supervision.
On-the-Job Training: The savings from criminal
justice reforms mentioned previously should be
invested into subsidized employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated people. On-the-job
training programs (OJT) exist in many counties and
are not limited to formerly incarcerated individuals.
Provided by County Workforce Investment Boards,
“One Stop Centers,” and nonprofit agencies, these
programs incentivize employers by subsidizing
up to 50% of the wages for formerly incarcerated
employees. In California, for example, Alameda

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

EMPLOYMENT

60% of formerly incarcerated
people are still unemployed a
year after release

67%

of formerly incarcerated
individuals associated with our
survey were still unemployed or
underemployed five years after
their release
b. Gideon, Lior, and Hung-En Sung. Eds. Rethinking Corrections: Rehabilitation, Reentry and Reintegration. SAGE
Publications, 2010. 332; Mueller-Smith, Micheal. “The Criminal and Labor Market Impacts of Incarceration,” 4. Web.
30 July 2015.

County’s non-profit Private Industry Council (PIC)
connects their clients with employers like Planting
Justice where employees earn $17.50 an hour to
learn urban farming and other agricultural processes. PIC pays for 50% of the wages for up to 520
hours (13 forty-hour weeks) or $4,000 in wages,
whichever threshold is reached first. While these
contracts do not explicitly guarantee employment
after the subsidized employment period, most
employers retain employees who have shown
themselves as successful workers.
Reentry Preparation: In order to facilitate more
successful reentry, states and counties should take
steps to ensure that people in prisons and jails have
the documents they need when they are released.
These documents include birth certificates, driver’s
licenses, health care enrollment, social security
cards, and RAP sheets. As one example, in Texas
the Reentry and Integration Division of the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice identifies people
who are two to six months away from release and
helps them apply for and obtain the documents
they need before that date.113 In Oregon people
who are being released from prison are provided
with an “Offender Debit Card” that can be used as
state ID as well as a card to make purchases or to

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withdraw cash. The card is identical to the card that
Oregon uses for public assistance thereby reducing stigma. Formerly incarcerated people can also
access those benefits from the card issued by the
Department of Corrections.
Restore Voting Rights: Millions of Americans each
year are denied the fundamental, democratic right
to vote if they have a prior criminal conviction. States
like Florida, Kentucky, and Iowa permanently terminate the voting rights of people with felonies. Many
other states permanently disenfranchise individuals with certain felony convictions, while others
only temporarily disenfranchise individuals and
allow voting rights to be restored upon completion
of the sentence, probation, or parole. Voting rights
are most respected in Maine and Vermont where
people with criminal convictions are never legally
disenfranchised due to their conviction. All states
should follow the example of Maine and Vermont
and allow people with criminal convictions to retain
their fundamental right to vote by implementing
automatic post-incarceration voting rights restoration for people returning from prison.

Recommendations

POLITICAL REPRESENTATION AND INCARCERATION
Criminal disenfranchisement or “civic death” is another cost of incarceration. As has been well documented elsewhere there are more than five million Americans who have lost the right to vote due to criminal
convictions. The impact on communities of color is profound.a As Michelle Alexander notes in The New
Jim Crow, there are more Black men under criminal supervision today than were slaves prior to the Civil
War. Because the disenfranchised often come from areas of concentrated incarceration, mass incarceration disenfranchises whole communities. The majority of respondents in this research were actively
involved in community social and political life, be it worker’s unions, parent teacher associations, faithbased organizations, or community based organizations. This research found that the vast majority (77%)
of respondents wanted to be more involved in political decision making. We also found, however, that
nearly half of formerly incarcerated individuals (46%) do not have the right to vote.
Less discussed is that these communities also experience voter dilution caused by prison gerrymandering.
The U.S. Census counts those who are incarcerated as residents of the area where they are imprisoned.
Very often prisons are located in small rural areas with low populations. This miscount artificially increases the “population” of areas where prisons are located and diminishes the political representation of the
communities that the incarcerated are from. This practice most heavily impacts urban areas of color, diluting their political influence. Take New York where more than 70% of prisoners are Black or Latino, but 98%
of prisons are in disproportionately white Senate districts. Because certain prisons are located in white,
upstate New York and incarcerated prison populations are counted as residents far from their home, there
are eight Senate districts where there would be seven. Given the fact that the majority of people in prison
cannot vote, counting people in prison as residents for political representation is at best bizarre. Recently,
four states have moved towards counting people in prison as residents of their communities, but the practice of prison gerrymandering remains widespread.b
a.	Uggen, Christopher, Sarah Shannon, and Jeff Manza. State-Level Estimates of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United State,
2010. Sentencing Project, 2012.
b.	Wagner, Peter. “50 State Incarceration Profile.” A prison policy initiative report. “Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political
Clout in New York.” Prison Policy. 22 Apr. 2002. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

CONCLUSION
We will never have healthy and thriving communities as long as we have a criminal justice system
focused on punishment and profit that devastates
our most vulnerable people.
Decades of poorly structured criminal justice
policies and practices have negatively impacted
millions of individuals and their families in our
country, affecting their economic stability, health
and well-being, and potential for future opportunities. On top of the tremendous financial costs
individuals and their families face during and after
incarceration, people struggle to repair family relationships, access housing and jobs, and address
health challenges, all while being denied benefits and critical supports. As we stand today, the
United States is paying $80 billion a year to impose
penalties and restrict opportunities for individuals
and their families at a tremendous cost–a dollar
cost that is both apparent and hidden, an emotional cost that is family–­and community-wide and
intergenerational, and a cost that should ultimately
weigh on us all. This research project helped illuminate how severe these impacts are, particularly on
vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.
The findings detailed in this report show the many
costs and barriers imposed on incarcerated individuals and their families, the emotional and
health costs they experience, and how these costs
impede the future success of both families and of
communities at large. We’ve also demonstrated
the tremendous burdens that women, in particular,
experience as direct damage from mass incarceration. As many of these costs fall disproportionately
on families and communities that are already struggling, they deepen poverty while dampening any
hope of change.
Moving ahead, the families and communities proven to provide stability and security for incarcerated
individuals and to help reduce rates of recidivism
overall should be supported by reforming and
reinvesting in policies that do better by families,
removing barriers, and restoring opportunities.

49

49

“On a deeper level, you’re not able to
get anything up under your feet and for
a long time in your life. If you do get out
of a correctional facility, you come home
and it’s basically like you’re starting
over, like you’re a new human on Earth.”
—Formerly incarcerated person,
Dayton, Ohio

Some of the recommendations made in this report
have been successfully implemented already
and warrant serious consideration for replication
across the nation.
We can no longer afford to continue business as
usual with criminal justice in the U.S. If our nation
truly wants to support all families and communities
to thrive, we must drastically reduce the financial,
emotional, and health impacts on incarcerated
people and their loved ones.
But for real change to take place we can’t just alter
a few policies—fundamental changes must occur
at the local, state, and national levels. Society too
must learn to shift preconceived perceptions about
incarcerated individuals and provide fair opportunities for these individuals and their families to
start over. At every level, these changes start with
a better understanding of the harm incarceration
causes and what can be done to reduce it.
One thing is clear, incarceration is touching more
families than ever before. Though our popular
culture is telling one story of the reality of incarceration, the lived experiences of incarcerated people
and families tell another, one of financial instability,
emotional devastation, and stifled opportunities
for multiple generations. If equality, fairness, and
second chances are values we hold, it is time to
take new kinds of action toward policies that maintain family stability and well-being.

Research Design and Survey Demographics

RESEARCH DESIGN AND SURVEY
DEMOGRAPHICS
Who Pays? is a national community-driven research
project. The research presented in this report was
a collaborative project of the Ella Baker Center for
Human Rights, Forward Together, and Research
Action Design, as well as local partners, including BreakOUT!, Causa Justa/Just Cause, Center
for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, DC Jobs
with Justice, Dignity and Power Now, Essie Justice
Group, Direct Action for Rights & Equality, Families
and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children,
Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, Michigan Center on Crime and Delinquency, Ohio Organizing
Collaborative, Partnership for Safety and Justice,
Prison & Family Justice Project at the University of
Michigan, Reentry Network for Returning Citizens,
Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged,
Inc., Statewide Poverty Action Network, Sunflower
Community Action, Voice of the Ex-Offender, and
Workers Center for Racial Justice.

This research and its contributing organizations
seek to address the lack of representation and
the misrepresentation of low-income communities of color in the design of smart solutions that
can break the cycles of violence and poverty exacerbated by the criminal justice system at the
local, state, and national levels. This research also
sought to uncover some of the ways individuals,
families, and communities disparately experience
these punitive practices based on race, class, gender, and sexuality.
Together, the research team surveyed 1,080 formerly incarcerated individuals and family members
of formerly incarcerated individuals and conducted thirty-four focus group sessions to document
participants’ experiences with the criminal justice
system and to solicit their thoughts about how that
system needs to change to support their families.

Art by Micah Bazant

50

50

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

The project sought participants’ perspectives on
how the criminal justice system has impacted their
own lives, including their livelihood and well-being,
as well as the financial and emotional impacts on
their families and communities. Researchers also
asked participants to share their recommendations
for what must change in the short and long term to
reverse the harms of current criminal justice policy.
Additionally, researchers interviewed twenty-seven
employers about their experiences with and barriers to employing formerly incarcerated individuals,
and the suggestions. Hundreds of research articles
were reviewed in order to understand the extent
to which the research findings reflect decades of
research about the material impacts of incarceration, the impacts of policy change in the last thirty
years, and key opportunities for change that support families. Throughout this process, possibilities
for restructuring and reinvesting in communities,
removing barriers, and restoring opportunities that
support family and community health and well-being were persistently and thoughtfully explored. Finally, researchers sought working models and case
studies that provide promising new directions for a
transformed system.
The research methods used in this report recognize the expertise of formerly incarcerated people
and their families. By orientation, the research

approach privileged the engagement of those
who are directly impacted by the criminal justice
system and its many consequences. Grounded in
a transformative research agenda, this research
also seeks to center community knowledge and
leadership in movements for social change. The
collaborative adopted this Research Justice
approach throughout the project. Together with
formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, and with the support of the research advisory
board, Research Justice was an integral part of
the research design, development and testing of
the research instruments, and data collection and
analysis. Utilizing a participatory action research
model, the research team sought to analyze the
experiences of families confronting the criminal justice system, the impacts of the system on families
and communities, and the vision for change held
by families. The primary study sites in California,
District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Kansas,
Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio,
Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and Washington
were chosen based on capacity on the ground
for people with direct experience to engage in
the research process. Nevertheless, this research
reflects the experiences of families across the
country, including the East, South, Midwest, and
Western United States.

RESEARCH DESIGN
Literature Review
Researchers conducted an extensive literature
review in order to assess the history and current
state of the impacts of the criminal justice system
on individuals, families, and communities in the
United States. The literature review spanned issues
related to the costs of supervision, punishment,
and restitution; opportunities for housing, employment, education, and basic needs; family contact
and separation; health impacts; and measures that
reduce recidivism. The literature review also included an extensive analysis of system and community
alternatives to current criminal justice policies that
are supportive of families and communities and

51

reduce recidivism. The research advisory board as
well as legislators and advocates were also consulted to identify relevant literature and case study
materials. The literature review informs both the
analysis in the report, as well as provides many of
the case studies presented in this report.

Research Design and Survey Demographics

Family Member and Formerly Incarcerated Person Focus Groups
Thirty-four focus groups were held in eighteen
cities across eleven states. Focus groups were
conducted in person in the following metropolitan areas: Seattle, WA; Providence, RI; Portland,
OR; Eugene, OR; Youngstown, OH; Dayton, OH;
Akron, OH; New York City, NY; Detroit, MI; New
Orleans, LA; Wichita, KS; Chicago, IL; Miami, FL;
District of Columbia; Stockton, CA; San Francisco,
CA; Oakland, CA; and Los Angeles, CA. The
focus groups were designed and fielded by the
research team using a participatory model, with
additional input from the research advisory board.
Trained community researchers from each partner

organization conducted focus groups locally with
formerly incarcerated individuals and family members of formerly incarcerated individuals. The focus
groups were transcribed, and a coding schema
was developed by the project partners during participatory data analysis workshops. Researchers
analyzed the focus group data using Dedoose
qualitative data analysis software. The majority of
the quotes throughout the report were taken from
these focus groups.  

Family Member and Formerly Incarcerated Person Surveys
Surveys were conducted in 60 cities nationwide
around the metro areas of Seattle, WA; Highland
Springs, VA; Providence, RI; Akron, OH; Ann Arbor,
MI; New Orleans, LA; Wichita, KS; Chicago, IL;
Jacksonville, FL; District of Columbia; Stockton,
CA; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; and
Oakland, CA.   One thousand and eighty surveys
were conducted with formerly incarcerated individuals and family members of formerly incarcerated
individuals. The survey was designed and fielded
by the research team using a participatory model,
with additional input from the research advisory
board. Trained community researchers from each

partner organization conducted face-to-face surveys. Surveys were collected in fourteen states
including California, District of Columbia, Florida,
Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey,
New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and
Washington. Surveys were conducted in English
and Spanish. Survey data was analyzed using
SPSS 23 statistical analysis software. Qualitative
data (open-ended questions) from the survey were
analyzed using Dedoose qualitative data analysis
software. Participatory data analysis workshops
were conducted with partner organizations as part
of the interpretation of survey findings.

Employer Interviews
Twenty-seven interviews were conducted in at
least fourteen cities in seven states, including
California, District of Columbia, Florida, Louisiana,
New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington.
Several employers declined to provide specific
demographic information, including the city of their
operation. The interview protocol was designed
and fielded by the research team, with input from

the research advisory board. Trained community researchers from each partner organization
conducted in-person interviews with employers.
Survey data was analyzed using Dedoose qualitative data analysis software.

52

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

SURVEY PARTICIPANT DEMOGRAPHICS 
LANGUAGES SPOKEN AT HOME

SURVEY PARTICIPATION BY STATE
California 35%

SPANISH - 12%

Louisiana 14%

OTHER - 1%

Washington 10%
Virginia 9%

ENGLISH - 94%

Ohio 8%
Florida 6%
Illinois

3%

Michigan 5%
Rhode Island 5%
DC
New Jersey
Kansas

3%
1%
2%

Texas <1%
New York <1%

AGE OF SURVEY PARTICIPANTS
Note: 353 Family Members, 676 Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE

AGE

FAMILY MEMBERS

11%

16-24

11%

32%

25-34

25%

27%

35-44

19%

21%

45-54

21%

8%

55-64

16%

65 and older

7%

1%

CITIZENSHIP STATUS
Note: 7% of survey participants declined to state citizenship status

FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE

53

53

FAMILY MEMBERS

97%

US Citizen

96%

2%

Permanent Resident

2%

0%

Visa Holder

1%

1%

Undocumented

0%

(e.g., Arabic,
Creole, Mandarin,
French, etc.)

Survey Participant Demographics 

CRIME SURVIVOR STATUS

RACE/ETHNICITY OF SURVEY PARTICIPANTS

SURVEY RESPONDENT

FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE
African American or Black 66%

NO
45%
YES
55%

Latina/o or Hispanic

17%

White

19%

Native American

5%

Asian or Pacific Islander

2%

Other 1%
ANOTHER FAMILY MEMBER

FAMILY MEMBERS

NO
34%

African American or Black 76%
Latina/o or Hispanic 15%

YES
66%

10%

White
Native American
Other

4%
2%

Asian or Pacific Islander 1%

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

GENDER IDENTITY

Notes: 8% of survey participants declined to state sexual orientation,
LGBQ includes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer and/or Questioning

Notes: “Trans*” includes trans men and trans women, “Two-Spirit”
includes self-identified Two-Spirit Native American individuals,
“GNC” refers to Gender Non-Conforming People

FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE
LGBQ
8%

STRAIGHT
91%

FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE
WOMEN
20%
Trans*,
Two-Spirit, GNC
1%

MEN
79%

FAMILY MEMBERS
LGBQ
7%

STRAIGHT
92%

FAMILY MEMBERS
MEN
23%

Trans*,
Two-Spirit, GNC
1%

WOMEN
76%

54

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

EMPLOYMENT STATUS
Note: 353 Family Members, 676 Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE

FAMILY MEMBERS

27%

Working Full Time

50%

18%

Working Part Time

19%

13% Temp, Seasonal, or Occasional Work

4%

34%

Unemployed

11%

1%

Retired

9%

10%

Disability

6%

6%

Self-employed or Business Owner

3%

3%

Other

4%

HOUSEHOLD INCOME
Less than $15,000 (working full-time at or below $7.25/hr)

38%

$15,000 to $25,000 (working full-time $7.25 to $13/hr)

24%

$25,000 to $35,000 (working full-time $13 to $18/hour)

13%

$35,000 to $50,000 (working full-time $19 to $26/hour)

13%

$50,000 to $70,000 (working full-time $27 to $36/hour)

8%

$70,000 to $100,000 (working full-time $37 to $52/hour)

3%

More than $100,000 (working full-time $53/hour or more)

1%

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT
FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE

18%

Elementary, middle, or some high school

11%

51%

High School graduate / GED

32%

19%

Some college, no degree

31%

Associate's degree (technical or occupational)

11%

Bachelor's degree

11%

7%
4%
1%

Master's degree

1%

Doctoral (PhD) or professional degree (M.D., J.D., etc)

3%

55

FAMILY MEMBERS

Other (trade and/or vocational)

3%
2%
1%

Survey Participant Demographics 

INCARCERATED PERSON JUSTICE INSTITUTION TYPES
Note: respondents able to select all that apply; formerly incarcerated survey participants answered on their own behalf; family
member participants answered on behalf of their formerly incarcerated family member.

State Prison 69%
County Jail 66%
Federal Prison 9%

5%

Other

3%

Immigration Detention Center
Juvenile Detention Center

2%

INCARCERATED PERSON TIME SINCE RELEASE
Note: respondents able to select all that apply; formerly incarcerated survey participants answered on their
own behalf; family member participants answered on behalf of their formerly incarcerated family member.

6 months or less 24%
6 months to 1 year ago 19%
1-5 years ago 38%
5 or more years ago 19%

INCARCERATED PERSON TOTAL TIME OF INCARCERATION
Note: respondents able to select all that apply; formerly incarcerated survey participants answered on their
own behalf; family member participants answered on behalf of their formerly incarcerated loved one.

less than 1 year 19%
1-3 years 30%
4-10 years 33%
10-20 years 13%
over 20 years 6%

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This report was made possible by the tremendous efforts of many individuals and organizations.
We would like to thank and honor the many people who so generously shared their time, experiences, and
wisdom over the course of this project, during focus groups, surveys, interviews, and workshops. Your stories, struggle, brilliance, and vision are the foundation of the work ahead.
We thank all of the research partners (see research team at the front of this report). Our collective dedication and solidarity made this project possible: Kemi Alabi, Amanda Alexander, Alex Alvarez, Rolando
Avila, Gahiji Barrow, DeAngelo Bester, Rachel Bishop, Marcy Bowers, Moira Bowman, Lillie BranchKennedy, Jaron Browne, Rheema Calloway, Jean Carbone, Gina Clayton, Devin D. Coleman, DaMareo
Cooper, Sasha Costanza-Chock, Eduardo Crabbe, Patrisse Cullors, Chris De Leone, Yacove Delany, Maria
Dominguez, Reuben Eckels, Pascal Emmer, Nate Faulk, Shantesha Fluker, Natalia Garcia, Durell Gilmore,
Carla Gonzales, Cory Greene, Minister Raymond Greene, Manie Grewal, Alejandra Gutierrez, Chino Hardin,
Norris Henderson, Lucero Herrera, Wayne Huggins, Ernest Johnson, Marc-Anthony Johnson, Shaena
Johnson, Sherman Justice, Kyung-Ji Kate Rhee, Akim Lattermore, Jennifer Kim, Kalpana Krishnamurthy,
Nikki Lewis, Andrew Lucero, Lily Mandlin, Zaineb Mohammed, Angie Nixon, Zachary Norris, Sammy Nuñez,
Mara Ortenburger, Gihan Perera, John Prince, Divine Pryor, Dashawn Rabon, Jayda Rasberry, Madeline
Ray, Sade Richmond, Troy Robertson, Dalia Rubiano Yedidia, Elena Salazar, Chris Schweidler, Ardell Shaw,
Eveline Shen, Milan Nicole Sherry, Lara Sim, Jason Smith, Kristen Staley, Courtney Stewart, Lillian Tillman,
Laura Ucik, Saba Waheed, Alicia Walters, Wes Ware, Michelle Weemhoff, Sheila Wilhelm, Shannon Wight,
Adrienne Wilson, Shamika Wilson, Jill Winsor, Gina Womack, Darris Young, Azadeh Zohrabi.
                                                            
This report was written by Saneta deVuono-powell, Chris Schweidler, Alicia Walters, and Azadeh Zohrabi.
We would like to thank our research advisory board members, including Inger Brinck, Todd Clear, Cheryl
Grills, Jonathan Heller, David Pate, Nicole Porter, Steven Renderos, Kaia Stern.
We would like to thank Micah Bazant for brilliant graphic design and layout.
This report was made possible by the generous support of the Akonadi Foundation, Andrus Family Fund,
First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Center for Community Change, Clif Bar Family Foundation,
Common Counsel Foundation, Compton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Foundation for a Just Society,
General Service Foundation, Gerbode Foundation, Google, Groundswell, The Grove Foundation, Hunt
Alternatives Fund Prime, Mover Fellowship, Irving Harris Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Libra Foundation,
Marguerite Casey Foundation, Mary Wohlford Foundation, The Moriah Fund, Natem Foundation, Open
Society Foundation, The Overbrook Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation, The California Endowment, Rose
Foundation/The Underdog Fund, The Scherman Foundation, Inc., Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at
Shelter Rock, Van Loben Sels Remberock, Wellspring Foundation, Women’s Foundation of California.
This report benefited from the contributions of a great many dedicated individuals. You have our gratitude: Mercy Albaran, Michelle Alexander, Gil Duran, Sean Eagle, Meredith Fenton, Nora Fleming, Lanise
Frazier, Emily Harris, Millie Herndon, Anna Hirsch, Elliot Hosman, Cole James, Kavon Jones, Chris McClain,
Sejal Mehta, Members of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, Reetu Mody, Hayes
Morehouse, David Reyes, Roshni Sampath, Zakiya Scott, Shiva Shah, Melissa Smith, Shiree Teng, Howard
Watts III.

57

57

Endnotes

ENDNOTES
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11 Sept. 2013. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. <https://www.nasbo.org/sites/default/files/pdf/State%20Spending%20for%20Corrections.pdf>; Travis, Jeremy,
Bruce Western, and Steve Redburn, eds. National Research Council of the National Academies. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring
Causes and Consequences. National Academies Press: Washington DC, 2014. 314. Print; The National Association of State Budget Officer. State
Spending for Corrections: Long-Term Trends and Recent Criminal Justice Policy Reforms. 11 Sept. 2013. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
2.  Wagner, Peter, and Leah Sakala. Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie. A Prison Policy Initiative briefing. 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
3.  The Pew Center on the States. One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections. Washington DC and Philadelphia, PA: The Pew Charitable
Trusts, 2009. 11. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
4.  Lee, Hedwig, et al. “Racial inequalities in connectedness to imprisoned individuals in the united states.” Du Bois Review: Social Science Research
on Race 12.2 (2015): 7. Web. 15 Jul. 2015.
5.  Holzer, Harry J. et al. “The Economic Costs of Childhood Poverty in the United States.” Journal of Children & Poverty.14.1 (Mar. 2008): 41–61.
6.  Eisen, Lauren-Brooke. Paying for Your Time: How Charging Inmates Fees Behind Bars May Violate the Excessive Fines Clause. New York, NY: Brennan
Center for Justice. 31 Jul. 2014. Web. 15 Jul. 2015.
7.  James, Doris J. “Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002.” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. 9. Jul. 2004. Web. 15 Jul. 2015.
8.  James, Doris J. “Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002.” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. 9. Jul. 2004. Web. 15 Jul. 2015.
9.  Eisen, Lauren-Brooke. Paying for Your Time: How Charging Inmates Fees Behind Bars May Violate the Excessive Fines Clause. New York, NY: Brennan
Center for Justice. 31 Jul. 2014. Web. 22 Jul. 2015.
10.  Shanahan, Ryan and Sandra Villalobos Anudelo. “The family and Recidivism.” AmericanJails. Sept./Oct. 2012; Sung, Hung-En. “Failure After
Success: Correlates of Recidivism Among Individuals who Successfully Completed Coerced Drug Treatment.” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 42.1
(2008): 75–97, 91; Listwan, S. J., et al. “How to prevent prisoner re-entry programs from failing: Insights from evidence-based corrections.” Federal
Probation 70.3 (2006): 19–25, 21; Shanahan, Ryan and Sandra Villalobos Anudelo. “The Family and Recidivism.” AmericanJails Sept./Oct. 2012. 22;
Redcross, Cindy, et al. “Transitional Jobs for Ex-Prisoners: Implementation, Two-Year Impacts, and Costs of the Center for Employment Opportunities
(CEO) Prisoner Reentry Program.” MDRC Report, 2009.
11.  Wagner, Peter and Leah Sakala. Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie. A Prison Policy Initiative briefing. 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
12.  Fields, Gary and John R. Emshwiller. “As Arrest Records Rise, Americans Find Consequences Can Last a Lifetime.” Wall Street Journal. 18 Aug.
2014. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
13.  Pew Charitable Trust. Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting Americas Prison Population 2007–2011. 2007. Web. 17 Jul. 2015.
14.  Lowenthal, Gary. “Mandatory Sentencing Laws: Undermining the Effectiveness of Determinate Sentencing Reform.” California Law Review 81.1
(1993): 61–123. Web. 17 Jul. 2015.
15.  The National Association of State Budget Officers. State Spending for Corrections: Long-Term Trends and Recent Criminal Justice Policy Reforms
Washington (11 Sept. 2013): 2. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. Kyckelhahn, Tracey, State Corrections Expenditures FY 1982–2010. Washington: US Department of
Justice, 2012.
16.  Phelps, Michelle S. “Rehabilitation in the Punitive Era: The Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality in US Prison Programs.” Law & Society Review 45.1
(2011): 55–68. <doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5893.2011.00427.x>; “Locked Up and Locked Out: An Educational Perspective on the U.S. Prison Population.”
Educational Testing Service Policy Report. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. < https://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PIC-LOCKEDUP.pdf>; Law, Victoria. “States
Cut Prison Budgets but Not Prison Populations.” truth-out.org. 14 Feb. 2013 Web. 22 Jul. 2015.
17.  Shapiro, Joseph. “As court fees rise, the poor are paying the price.” NPR.org. 19 May 2014. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
18.  Anderson, Helen A. “Penalizing Poverty: Making Criminal Defendants Pay for their Court-Appointed Counsel Through Recoupment and
Contribution” University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 42.2 (2009); Wright, Ronald F. and Wayne A. Logan. The Political Economy of Application Fees
for Indigent Criminal Defense, William and Mary Law Review 47.6 (2006): 2045, 2053; Shapiro, Joseph. “As court fees rise, the poor are paying the price.”
NPR.org. 19 May 2014. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
19.  Shapiro. “As court fees rise, the poor are paying the price.”; see also: Wright, Ronald F., and Wayne A. Logan. “The political economy of
application fees for indigent criminal defense.” William and Mary Law Review 47 (2006).
20.  Diller, Rebekah, Alicia Bannon, and Mitali Nagrecha. “Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry.” Brennan Center for Justice, 4 Oct. 2010. 12.
21.  Harris, Alexes, Heather Evans, and Katherine Beckett. “Drawing Blood from Stones: Legal Debt and Social Inequality in the Contemporary United
States.” American Journal of Sociology 115.6 (2010).
22.  Douglas N. Evans, “The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration.” John Jay College of Criminal Justice (2014): 9.
Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
23.  Harris, Alexes. “The Cruel Poverty of Monetary Sanctions.” 4 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. < http://thesocietypages.org/papers/monetarysanctions/>; Shapiro, “As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price.”
24.  Shapiro. “As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price.”
25.  Shapiro. “As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price”; for a survey of some costs defendants see: “Interstate Compact Application and
Supervision Fees.” Nov. 2004. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
26.  Evans. “The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration.” 4.
27.  Evans. “The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration.” 1; The National Association of State Budget Officers, State
Spending for Corrections: Long-Term Trends and Recent Criminal Justice Policy Reforms.

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Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

28.  Wildeman, Christopher. “Parental Imprisonment, the Prison Boom, and the Concentration of Childhood Disadvantage.” Demography 46.2 (2009):
265–280; Brito, Tonya L. “Fathers Behind Bars: Rethinking Child Support Policy Toward Low-Income Noncustodial Fathers and Their Families.” The
Journal of Gender, Race, and Justice 15.3 (Spring 2012): 617–73.
29.  Pearson, Jessica. “Building Debt While Doing Time: Child Support and Incarceration.” Judges Journal 43.1 (2004): 3.
30.  Pearson. “Building Debt While Doing Time: Child Support and Incarceration”; Brito. “Fathers Behind Bars: Rethinking Child Support Policy Toward
Low-Income Noncustodial Fathers and Their Families.”
31.  Evans. “The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration.” 5; see also: 42 U.S.C.§ 659.
32.  Griswold, Esther Ann. “Turning Offenders into Responsible Parents and Child Support Payers.” Family Court Review 43.3 (July 2005): 358–371,
359, 360; Evans. “The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration”; Brito. “Fathers Behind Bars: Rethinking Child Support
Policy Toward Low-Income Noncustodial Fathers and Their Families.” 617–73.
33.  Griswold. “Turning Offenders into Responsible Parents and Child Support Payers.” 358-371, 360; Evans, “The Debt Penalty.”
34.  National Housing Law Project. An Affordable Home on Re-Entry: Federally Assisted Housing and Previously Incarcerated Individuals. Oakland, 2008.
Web. 30 Jul. 2015. <http://www.nhlp.org/guidebooks>; Petersilia, Joan. When Prisoners Come Home: Parole and Prisoner Reentry. Chicago, IL: University
of Chicago Press, 2003; Independent committee on reentry and employment.
35.  An Affordable Home on Re-Entry: Federally Assisted Housing and Previously Incarcerated Individuals. National Housing Law Project, 2008. Web. 30
Jul. 2015.American Bar Association Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
36.  Gideon, Lior, and Hung-En Sung. Eds. Rethinking Corrections: Rehabilitation, Reentry and Reintegration. SAGE Publications, 2010. 332; MuellerSmith, Micheal. “The Criminal and Labor Market Impacts of Incarceration,” 4. Web. 30 July 2015.
37.  Western, Bruce. “The Impact of Incarceration on Wage Mobility and Inequality.” American Sociological Review 67.4 (August 2002): 526, 536.
38.  Western, “The Impact of Incarceration on Wage Mobility and Inequality.” 540; Mauer, Marc. “Thinking about Prison and its Impact in the TwentyFirst Century.” Ohio State Journal of Law 2.607 (2005): 611.
39.  Meek, Amy P. Street Vendors, Taxicabs and Exclusion Zones: The Impact of Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions at the Local Level.
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, 2014.
40.  Wheelock, Darren, Christopher Uggen, and Heather Hlavka. “Employment Restrictions for Individuals with Felon Status and Racial Inequality in
the Labor Market.” In Global Perspectives on Re-entry. University of Tampere Press (2011): 283.
41.  Rodriguez, Michelle N. and Maurice Emsellem, 65 Million “Need Not Apply”: The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment.
The National Employment Law Project, March 2011.
42.  Galgano, Sarah Wittig. “Barriers to Reintegration: An Audit Study of the Impact of Race and Offender Status on Employment Opportunities for
Women.” Social Thought & Research (2009): 21–37; Spade, Dean. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. South
End Press, 2011; Grant, Jaime M., et al. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington: National Center
for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 2011. 50–66. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. Galgano. “Barriers to Reintegration: An Audit Study
of the Impact of Race and Offender Status on Employment Opportunities for Women.”; Dean Spade, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans
Politics, and the Limits of Law.
43.  Morín, José Luis. “Latinas/os and US Prisons: Trends and Challenges.” Latino Studies 6 (2008): 11–34. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. Ortiz, Natalie Rose.
“The Gendering of Criminal Stigma: An Experiment Testing the Effects of Race/Ethnicity and Incarceration on Women’s Entry-Level Job Prospects.”
Arizona State University, 2014 104, 116. Ortiz. “The Gendering of Criminal Stigma: An Experiment Testing the Effects of Race/Ethnicity and Incarceration
on Women’s Entry-Level Job Prospects.”
44.  A Blueprint for Equality: Federal Agenda for Transgender People. “Chapter 13: Reducing Incarceration and Ending Abuse in Prisons.” Web. 30 Jul.
2015. 42.
45.  A Blueprint for Equality: Federal Agenda for Transgender People. “Chapter 13 Reducing Incarceration and Ending Abuse in Prisons”; This Is
a Prison, Glitter Is Not Allowed: Experiences of Trans and Gender Variant People in Pennsylvania’s Prison Systems. Philadelphia, PA: Hearts on a Wire
Collective, 2011. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
46.  Steurer, Stephen, et al. “The Three State Recidivism Study.” U.S. Department of Education, (1997): 1; Crawford, Emily M. and Maurice McBrideOwens. “Perceptions of Employers towards Hiring Ex-Offenders with Online Degrees.” 24 November 2014. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. Anders, Allison Daniel, and
George W. Noblit. “Understanding Effective Higher Education Programs in Prisons: Considerations from the Incarcerated Individuals Program in North
Carolina.” Journal of Correctional Education 62.2 (June 1, 2011): 77–93; Esperian, John H. “The Effect of Prison Education Programs on Recidivism,”
Journal of Correctional Education 61.4 (December 1, 2010): 316–34; Meyer, Stephen J., et al., “Implementing Postsecondary Academic Programs in State
Prisons: Challenges and Opportunities.” Journal of Correctional Education 61.2 (June 1, 2010): 148–84; Gaes, Gerald G. “The Impact of Prison Education
Programs on Post-Release Outcomes.” Reentry Roundtable on Education, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, March 31 (2008). Web. 30 Jul.
2015. Karpowitz, Daniel, Max Kenner, and Bard Prison Initiative. “Education as Crime Prevention: The Case for Reinstating Pell Grant Eligibility for the
Incarcerated.” Evaluation (1995): 1–8.
47.  Case, Patricia and David Fasenfest. “Expectations for Opportunities Following Prison Education: A Discussion of Race and Gender.” Journal of
Correctional Education 55.1 (1 Mar. 2004): 24–39; American Bar Association Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions and The Public Defender
Service for the District of Columbia. Internal Exile: Collateral Consequences of Conviction in Federal Laws and Regulations. Chicago, IL, 2009. 19. Web. 30
Jul. 20
48.  Gabe, Thomas. “Poverty in the United States: 2013,” Congressional Research Service (January 29, 2015): 2. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
49.  Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) Monthly Data—National Level: FY 2012 through Latest Available Month. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
50.  TANF: Total Number of Recipients Fiscal and Calendar Year 2014 Average Monthly Number of Recipients: October 2013 through December 2014
51.  Pew Research Center. “A Bipartisan Nation of Beneficiaries.” 18 Dec. 2012. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
52.  Pinard. “Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions.”

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Endnotes

53.  Allard, Patricia. Life Sentences: Denying Welfare Benefits to Women Convicted of Drug Offenses. Feb. 2002. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. Miller, Reuben
Jonathan. “Race, Hyper-Incarceration, and US Poverty Policy in Historic Perspective.” Sociology Compass 7.7 (2013): 573–89. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. Radosh,
Polly F. “War on Drugs: Gender and Race inequities in crime control strategies.” Criminal Justice Studies: A critical Journal of Crime Law and Society 21.2
(2008): 167–17; Allard. Life Sentences; Miller. “Race, Hyper-Incarceration, and US Poverty Policy in Historic Perspective.”
54.  Diller, et al. “Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry”; Allard. Life Sentences; Miller. “Race, Hyper-Incarceration, and US Poverty Policy in
Historic Perspective.”
55.  Richie, Beth E. “Challenges Incarcerated Women Face as They Return to Their Communities: Findings from Life History Interviews.” Crime &
Delinquency 47.3 (1 Jul. 2001): 368–89, 369. Web. 30 Jul. 2015 Safer Foundation. Reducing Barriers to Employment for Women Ex-offenders. Web. 30 Jul.
2015.
56.  Weiser, Sheri, et al. “Gender-Specific Correlates of Incarceration among Marginally Housed Individuals in San Francisco.” American Journal of
Public Health 99.8 (Aug. 2009): 1461.
57. Weiser, et al. “Gender-Specific Correlates of Incarceration among Marginally Housed Individuals in San Francisco.”
58.  Meek, Amy P. Street Vendors, Taxicabs and Exclusion Zones: The Impact of Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions at the Local Level.;
Legal Action Center. After Prison: Roadblocks to Reentry, Legal Action Center. 2004. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
59.  Shanahan and Anudelo. “The Family and Recidivism.”
60.  Petro, Lee G., Drinker Biddle, and L. L. P. Reath. The Price to Call Home: State-Sanctioned Monopolization in the Prison Phone Industry. Prison Policy
Initiative, September 2012. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
61.  Simpson, Ian. “Prison Phone Call Costs To Be Reduced; 15-Minute Call Previously As Much As $17,” Huffington Post. 9 Aug. 2013. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
62.  Dannenberg, John, and Alex Friedmann. “FCC Order Heralds Hope for Reform of Prison Phone Industry.” Prison Legal News 24.12 (2013): 1–24.
Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
63.  “Inmate Visits Now Carry Added Cost in Arizona.” New York Times. 4 Sept. 2011. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. CT Office of Legislative Research Report.
Extended family Visits in Prison. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
64.  Grinstead, Olga, et al. “The Financial Cost of Maintaining Relationships with Incarcerated African American Men: A Survey of Women Prison
Visitors.” Journal of African American Men 6.1 (1 Jun. 2001): 59–69, 63, 66. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
65.  Shanahan and Anudelo. “The Family and Recidivism.”
66. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2014.
262, 338.
67. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. 265.
68.  The Pew Center on the States. Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility. Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010. 4.
69.  Frost, Natasha, et al. Hard Hit: The Growth in the Imprisonment of Women, 1977–2004. Institute on Women and Criminal Justice, 2006. 26. Web.
30 Jul. 2015.
70.  Western. Punishment and Inequality in America; Glaze, Lauren E. and Laura M. Maruschak. Parents in Prison and their Minor Children. Bureau of
Justice Statistics, Special Report, 2008. 14. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
71.  Phillips, S. D., et al. Disentangling the risks: Parent criminal justice involvement and children’s exposure to family risks. Criminology and Public
Policy 5 (2006): 677–702.
72.  Clear, Todd R. The Effects of High Imprisonment Rates on Communities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. 111; Nurse, Anne M.
“Returning to Strangers: Newly Paroled Young Fathers and Their Children.” 2004. In Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration. Ed. by
Mary Pattillo, et al. New York: Russell Sage.
73.  Wildeman, Christopher. “Parental Incarceration, Child Homelessness, and the Invisible Consequences of Mass Imprisonment.” The ANNALS of the
American Academy of Political and Social Science 651.1 (1 Jan. 2014): 74–96. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
74. Wildeman. “Parental Incarceration, Child Homelessness and the Invisible Consequences of Mass Imprisonment.
75.  Murray, Joseph, and David Farrington. “The Effect of Parental Imprisonment on Children.” Crime and Justice. 37.1. 133–206; Clear. The Effects of
High Imprisonment Rates on Communities.
76.  Genty, Philip M. “Damage to Family Relationships as a Collateral Consequence of Parental Incarceration.” Fordham Urb. LJ 30 (2002): 1671.
77. Genty. “Damage to Family Relationships as a Collateral Consequence of Parental Incarceration.”
78.  Stalans, Loretta J., and Arthur J. Lurigio. “Parenting and Intimate Relationship Effects on Women Offenders’ Recidivism and Noncompliance with
Probation.” Women & Criminal Justice 0.1–17 (2015).
79.  Washington State Family & Offender Sentencing Alternative. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. <http://www.doc.wa.gov/community/fosa/>.
80.  Turney. “Stress Proliferation across Generations?”; Wakefield, Sara, and Christopher Wildeman. “Mass Imprisonment and Racial Disparities in
Childhood Behavioral Problems.” Criminology & Public Policy 10.3 (2011): 793–817. Web. 30 Jul. Gilhuly, Kim, et al. Healthier Lives, Stronger Families,
Safer Communities: How Increasing Funding for Alternatives to Prison Will Save Lives and Money in Wisconsin. Human Impact Partners, WISDOM,
November 2012. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
81.  The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2014.
202–20.
82.  Binswanger, Ingrid A., Patrick M. Krueger, and John F. Steiner. “Prevalence of Chronic Medical Conditions among Jail and Prison Inmates in the
United States Compared with the General Population.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (30 Jul. 2009). Web. 30 Jul. 2015. <doi:10.1136/
jech.2009.090662>.
83.  The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. 205.
84.  The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. 203–205; James, Doris J., and Lauren E. Glaze. Mental
Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006. 1.
85.  The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. 206–207.

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86.  Abramsky, Sasha, and Jamie Fellner. Ill-Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness. Human Rights Watch, 2003; Schnittker, Jason,
Michael Massoglia, and Christopher Uggen. “Out and Down: Incarceration and Psychiatric Disorders.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 53.4 (1 Dec.
2012): 448–64. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. Turney, Kristin Turney, Christopher Wildeman, and Jason Schnittker. “As Fathers and Felons Explaining the Effects
of Current and Recent Incarceration on Major Depression.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 53.4 (1 Dec. 2012): 465–81. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. Haney,
Craig. “Mental Health Issues in Long-Term Solitary and ‘Supermax’ Confinement.” Crime & Delinquency 49.1 (1 Jan. 2003): 124–56. 127. Web. 30 Jul.
2015.
87.  Eisen, Lauren-Brooke. “Paying for your time: How Charging Inmates Fees Behind Bars May Violate the Excessive Fines Clause.” Loyola Journal
of Public Law Interest 15.319 (2014); Travis, Jeremy, and Michelle Waul. Prisoners Once Removed: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on Children,
Families, and Communities. The Urban Institute, 2003.
88.  H.R. 1349, Federal Prisoner Health Care Copayment Act of 2000. House Committee on the Judiciary, 19 Jul. 1999, Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
89.  Awofeso, Niyi. “Prison Healthcare Co-payment Policy: A cost-cutting measure that might threaten inmates health.” Applied Health Economics and
Health Policy 4.3 (2005): 159.
90.  H.R. 1349, Federal Prisoner Health Care Copayment Act of 2000 Sec 4048 (g)(2)(A)-(B).
91.  Turney, “Stress Proliferation across Generations?”; Wakefield and Wildeman. “Mass Imprisonment and Racial Disparities in Childhood Behavioral
Problems”; Gilhuly, et al., Healthier Lives, Stronger Families, Safer Communities: How Increasing Funding for Alternatives to Prison Will Save Lives and
Money in Wisconsin.
92.  Gilhuly, et al., Healthier Lives, Stronger Families, Safer Communities: How Increasing Funding for Alternatives to Prison Will Save Lives and Money
in Wisconsin; Smith, Amy. Health and Incarceration: A Workshop Summary. National Academy of Sciences, 2013; Massoglia, Michael. “Incarceration as
Exposure: The Prison, Infectious Disease, and Other Stress-Related Illnesses,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 49.1 (1 Mar. 2008): 56–71. Web.
30 Jul. 2015. Pridemore, William Alex. “The Mortality Penalty of Incarceration Evidence from a Population-Based Case-Control Study of Working-Age
Males.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 55.2 (1 Jun. 2014): 215–33. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. Restum, Zulficar Gregory. “Public Health Implications
of Substandard Correctional Health Care.” American Journal of Public Health 95.10 (Oct. 2005): 1689–91. Web. 30 Jul. 2015. <doi:10.2105/
AJPH.2004.055053>; Turney. “Stress Proliferation across Generations?”.
93.  Prepared by the Attorney General, Proposition 47: Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties. Initiative Statute, Analysis, 2014. Web. 27 Jul.
2015.
94.  Gutierrez, Melody. “California Prisons Have Released 2,700 Inmates under Prop. 47.” SFGate. Hearst Communications, Inc., 6 Mar. 2015. Web. 27
Jul. 2015.
95.  United States. House—Judiciary; Energy and Commerce; Education and the Workforce. Titles. 114th Cong., 1st sess. Cong. Bill. N.p., 30 Apr.
2015. Web. 27 Jul. 2015.
96.  With the approval of the District Attorney’s Office and the consent of the person who was harmed, cases are diverted to Common Justice. After
an extensive preparatory period and in the context of ongoing supervision, the program convenes the responsible party, the harmed party, their family
and friends for a dialogue to recognize the harm, identify the needs of the person who was harmed, and determine the non-incarceration sanctions
or agreements that will hold the responsible party accountable. Common Justice supervises the responsible parties for 15 to 18 months and provides
wraparound services to those harmed. Responsible parties who successfully complete the program do not serve prison time and have the felony charges
against them dismissed. Since the program was launched in 2008, less than 10% of the responsible parties have been terminated from the program
for new crimes. After an assessment in 2011, the program underwent changes based on its early experience and only one participant who enrolled after
January 2012, when the refined model was in place, has been terminated from the program for a new crime.; “Common Justice.” Vera Institute of Justice.
Vera Institute, n.d. Web. 27 Jul. 2015.
97.  Minton, Todd, and Zhen Zeng. Jail Inmates at Midyear 2014, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2015. Web. 27 Jul. 2015.
98.  Tafoya, Sonya. Pretrial Detention and Jail Capacity in California, Public Policy Institute of California, July 2015. Web. 27 Jul. 2015.
99.  American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section Standards: Pretrial Release, Part I. General Principles. Web. 27 Jul. 2015.
100.  18 USC § 3142
101.  Journal of Criminal Justice Education & Research, Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, Kentucky Pretrial Release Manual, The Advocate,
June 2013. 8–10. 8cb20d917352/0/pretrialreleasemanualfinal071713.pdf> Stating and emphasizing that pretrial release is a defendant’s constitutional
right and should be upheld unless flight or public safety risk.
102.  Pretrial Services. Pretrial Reform in Kentucky. Administrative Office of the Courts, Kentucky Court of Justice, Jan. 2013. 5. Web. 27 Jul. 2015.
103.  O.R. Project, Own Recognizance (OR). San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project. Web. 27 Jul. 2014.
104.  “P.L.2014, CHAPTER 31, Senate, No.946.” n.d. New Jersey State Legislature. 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 27 Jul. 2015. NOTE: the reform will take effect in
2017.
105.  U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Public Housing Occupancy Guidebook. Jun. 2003. Web. 27 Jul. 2015.
106.  Sewell, Abby. “L.A. County makes it easier for ex-inmates to get Section 8 housing.” Los Angeles Times. Tribune Publishing Company, 8 Apr.
2015. Web. 27 Jul. 2015.:
107.  National Housing Law Project, Web. 27 Jul. 2015.
108.  Pinard. “Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions.”
109.  Allard. Life Sentences; Miller, Reuben Jonathan. “Race, Hyper-Incarceration, and US Poverty Policy in Historic Perspective.” Sociology Compass
7.7 (2013): 573–89. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
110.  Roberts, Dorothy E. “Punishing Drug Addicts Who Have Babies: Women of Color, Equality, and the Right of Privacy.” Harvard Law Review 104.7 (1
May 1991): 1419–82. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
111.  Travis, Jeremy, Elizabeth Cincotta McBride, and Amy L. Solomon. “Families Left Behind: the Hidden Costs of Incarceration and Reentry.” Urban
Institute, 2003. Web. 30 Jul. 2015.
112.  “18 U.S. Code § 3624—Release of a prisoner, 2011. Web. 27 Jul. 2015. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/3624>.
113.  Reentry: Identification Document Processing. Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Reentry, and Integration Division. Web. 27 Jul. 2015.

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