It costs about $26,000 to put a person in federal prison for one year.
But that's not what prison really costs us, says this excellent new report from the Pew Economic Policy Group and the Pew Center on the States.
Before being incarcerated, two-thirds of male inmates were employed and more than half were the primary source of financial support for their children.
After release, former male inmates work nine fewer weeks annually and take home 40 percent less in annual earnings, making $23,500 instead of $39,100. That amounts to an expected earnings loss of nearly $179,000 through age 48 for men who have been incarcerated.
Of former inmates who were in the bottom of the earnings distribution in 1986, two-thirds remained there in 2006, twice the number of non-incarcerated men.
more than 2.7 million minor children now have a parent behind bars, or 1 in every 28. For African American children the number is 1 in 9, a rate that has more than quadrupled in the past 25 years.The report includes a quote from Attorney General Eric Holder:
People sometimes make bad choices. As a result, they end up in prison or jail. But we can't permit incarceration of a parent to punish an entire family.While of course connecting former inmates to jobs is essential, we don't have this problem at all if people don't go to prison in the first place. America's over-reliance on prisons is costing us a fortune -- and it's not just poured into bars and concrete.