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Debbie A. Mukamal Introduction: Consequences of a Carceral State T H E PHRASE “ MASS IN C A R C E R A T IO N ” IS N O W W ID EL Y U SED TO DESCRIBE the current state of crim inal justice in the United States. Over the past generation, our rate of incarceration has m ore than quadrupled, rising every year since 1972 so th at it now exceeds 735 per 100,000 people (Harrison and Beck, 2006). Today, more than 2.3 million individuals are incarcerated in state and federal prisons and in local jails (Harrison and Beck, 2006). A recent study forecasts that the state and federal prison population will increase by nearly 200,000 people in the next five years (JFA Institute, 2007). W hile our incarceration rate has risen, so too has th e rate of those reentering the com m unity from prison. Nearly everyone w ho goes to prison or jail eventually comes hom e. This year alone, 650,000 people w ill re tu rn from state or federal prison (Office of Justice Programs, n.d.), and another 9 m illion will cycle in and out of local jails (Osborne and Solomon, 2006). Facing a m yriad of chal­ lenges, the unfortunate likelihood is th at m any will end up back in prison or jail. Nationally, two-thirds of prisoners are rearrested and nearly 52 percent are reincarcerated for a new crim e or a violation of their release supervision requirem ents w ithin three years of release (Langan and Levin, 2002). Incarceration and its collateral reentry effects do not occur evenly across com m unities, classes, races, or genders. For instance, social research Vol 74 : No 2 : Summer 2007 569 dem ographic disparities am ong those affected by incarceration are large and growing. African Americans are eight times m ore likely to be incarcerated than whites (Western, 2006). W omen comprise 7 percent of the state prison population but also represent the fastest growing portion of the incarcerated population. Between 1980 and 2005, the num ber of wom en im prisoned in the United States increased by nearly 700 percent (BJS, 2005). Individuals returning hom e often carry public health risks for their communities. In 1997, 20 to 26 percent of all people living w ith HIV in the United States passed though a correctional facility (Hammett et al., 2002). Forty percent of those w ith tuberculosis and 29 to 43 percent of those w ith hepatitis C were also incarcerated at some point during the same year (Hammett et al., 2002). Among state prisoners, 73 percent of wom en and 55 percent of m en report having a m ental health problem (James and Glaze, 2006). As Elizabeth Gaynes poignantly addressed in her presentation at the conference, incarceration has profound effects on the children of incarcerated parents. An estim ated 1.5 m illion children under the age of 18 currently have a parent in prison, and over 10 million children have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives (Mumola, 2000). Incarceration separates children from their incarcerated parents, and has been associated w ith decreased self-esteem as well as increased risk ofjuvenile delinquency, poor school performance, incidence of depres­ sion and anxiety and aggressiveness (Lengyel and Harris, 2003). The financial costs of incarceration are also enormous. Significant portions of state budgets are now invested in the crim inal justice system. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports expenditures on state corrections departm ents rose from $6.9 billion in 1980 (BJS, 2006a) to nearly $62 billion in 2004 (BJS, 2006b), representing an increase of nearly 800 percent. In certain local communities, where the concentra­ tion of people cycling in and out of prison and jail is acute, the cost of incarcerating residents in prison or jail exceeds $1 m illion per block. Every dollar spent on corrections is a dollar unavailable for education and social and health services. 570 social research Efforts have been m ade to identify, catalog, and address the range of legal consequences arising from a criminal record. W hile these laws are triggered by an arrest or conviction, they serve...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 569-573
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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