Understanding Incarceration and Employment in the U.S.

Incarceration and Employment

To fully understand the importance of hiring returning people, we need to know the history and impact of incarceration on employment and opportunity. Our advisor Jay Jordan breaks it down.

Incarceration, Employment, and Systemic Racism in the United States 

Over the last 40 years, the carceral system in the United States has expanded at an exponential rate—greater than any other period in the nation’s history—increasing 500% since the 1970s. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Mass incarceration has devastated communities of color across the nation, and the stigma of a criminal record bars people from meaningful employment and other opportunities to re-enter society. As a result of mass incarceration, the United States has created a new caste of second-class citizens and social conditions that Michelle Alexander referred to in 2012 as “the New Jim Crow.”

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Sentencing laws over the past 40 years have disproportionately targeted and impacted communities of color. Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men, and Hispanic men 2.7 times as likely as white men to be incarcerated.

The economic impacts of incarceration are devastating and are felt disproportionately by people of color. While incarcerated, a person can’t pay bills, they can’t earn wages, leaving their families with ruined credit scores and staggering debt. This economic immobility is felt for generations, impacting physical and mental health of children. Without material support, returning people get stuck in a cycle of poverty and incarceration.

We are essentially saying that a large portion, disproportionately Black and brown people, will permanently be disenfranchised in this country and it will affect their kids. Doesn’t make any sense.

Jay Jordan, Vice President of Alliance for Safety and Justice
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