Prison impacts livelihood

The District of Columbia has the highest incarceration rate in the United States – a rate higher than almost every nation on the planet, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

The direct cost of this imprisonment has been increasing at worrying rates. The state correctional system costs quadrupled over the past two decades and now top $50 billion a year, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. The same study revealed that one in every 100 adults is incarcerated, and expenses related to building prisons and inmate support have significantly increased.

Mass incarceration is bad for the economy. Not only is the government spending one in 15 general fund dollars to keep jails running, but inmate’s chances of finding employment and living an independent life once out of jail are negatively affected.

More than two-thirds of male inmates were employed before incarceration. Out of those two-thirds, more than half of them represented the primary source of financial support to their children. Once these inmates get out of jail and want to rejoin the workforce, they have to face the reduction of approximately 11 percent of their hourly wages.

We the Threefold Advocate believe it is important to recognize the impact of massive incarceration in the U.S. We are especially concerned about the economic sustainability of former inmates and their children.

According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association approximately 1.7 million children have parents who are incarcerated in the United States. Children of incarcerated parents are at risk for negative social conduct and face a higher risk of substance abuse and incarceration.

We believe that support services should be readily available for inmates while they are in jail and immediately after they are released. Inmates would benefit from placement support groups and follow-up services that would help them stay employed. By helping inmates we can protect their children from falling into the same cycle. According to Pew, a proven model shows that inmates will have a shortened prison stay if they complete educational, vocational or rehabilitation programs. This increases their chances of successfully reentering the labor market.