People who have been incarcerated in jail or prison report being in debt more often than those who have not been to jail. In addition, people serving time are less likely to be working and more likely to be reliant on public assistance as a source of income. So, here is how serving time affects people’s financial situation.
1. Incarceration is Linked with Being in Debt
A study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 75 percent of people incarcerated in jail or state prison report being in debt before going to jail. In addition, 27 percent of people incarcerated surveyed stated that they were in debt at the time of their incarceration. Of those with a formerly incarcerated household member, 21 percent stated that their family was unable to pay for basic living expenses at some point within the last year because of the financial situation caused by a former inmate’s incarceration. Incarcerated participants also reported incurring more debts since they had been incarcerated than non-incarcerated respondents. These additional debts included child support and alimony payments, fines and fees applied after convictions, and restitution ordered as part of a sentence. If you want to know more about the federal prisons in the US, there is plenty of information online that will help you. Understanding prison and how it works is not easy, the whole system is really complicated, but with some research, you will understand it really well.
2. People Who Report Being in Debt are Less Likely to be Employed
People incarcerated in jail or prison are less likely to be employed full-time and more likely to be working part-time than those who have never been to jail. In addition, those incarcerated are less likely to have a job before going to jail. Furthermore, people who report being in debt are also less likely to be employed than those who do not report being in debt. Incarcerated participants were about half as likely as non-incarcerated respondents to hold a full-time job (37 percent versus 22 percent). On the other hand, 13 percent of incarcerated survey respondents worked only part-time compared with 8 percent of non-incarcerated surveyed adults. However, among those who reported that they had a paying job before going into prison or jail, 24 were unemployed since their incarceration. This is a major loss of income for the family.
3. People Incarcerated Rely More on Public Assistance as a Source of Income
People incarcerated in jail or prison are more likely to be unemployed and rely on public assistance for a source of income compared with their non-incarcerated counterparts. In addition, incarcerated people surveyed were less likely to report personal earnings as a primary source of income in the month prior to incarceration than those not incarcerated. Furthermore, when asked about sources of income during the time since they were incarcerated, nearly one-third stated that public assistance programs were a primary form of income at some point within the past 12 months after being released from jail or prison. This is especially true for women who have been involved in the criminal justice system due to lack of childcare options outside prison walls. It is a fact that many women have been imprisoned for nonviolent, drug related crimes relating to their children being in foster care, and after they have served time, they are required to pay large child support fees.
4. Incarceration Increases the Risk of Homelessness
People incarcerated in jail or state prison are more likely to have experienced homelessness during their lifetime than those never incarcerated. In addition, incarcerated people surveyed were more likely to have been homeless since they were released from jail or prison compared with those not incarcerated. Furthermore, according to the survey data, incarcerated participants were significantly more likely than non-incarcerated respondents to have experienced homelessness at some point in their lifetime. This is especially true for women who are released from prison into a halfway home with no means of financial support upon release. Often these homes require residents to be employed shortly after leaving jail or prison, but many homeless women do not have jobs when they leave jail. Homelessness is a major problem in the US, and is increasing every year.
5. People Serving Time in Jail or Prison Report Lower Annual Household Income
People incarcerated in jail or state prison are less likely to report household income of $35,000 per year or more compared with those never incarcerated. In addition, people who were incarcerated for a year or more reported significantly lower annual incomes than those not incarcerated. Furthermore, according to the survey data, people serving time in jail or prison have a median annual household income of about $20,192. This is especially true for women coming out of prison without any work skills and unable to find jobs that will pay them enough money to support themselves. Women are also at risk of being involved in sex work upon release from prison due to lack of options on the outside world. Poor women are usually left behind by society when they are sentenced because their families are unable to support them while they are serving time.
6. People Serving Time Report Lower Levels of Education And Therefore No Jobs
People who were incarcerated in jail or state prison are less likely to have attained at least some college education compared with those never incarcerated, and also reported significantly lower levels of educational attainment than people not currently incarcerated. Furthermore, people are reported having no high school diploma or GED certificate. Low education levels are especially true for men and women who are thrown into jail or prison because they have children that need to be taken care of. They are forced to leave their children with family members, friends, or strangers while they serve time in jail or prison. Without a high school diploma or GED certificate, the only jobs available to these low-educated people are minimum wage jobs, which often do not pay enough money to support themselves and their families upon release from incarceration
Being incarcerated has significant effects on individuals’ financial situations by making them more susceptible to not having access to money after release, increasing rates of homelessness among those incarcerated. This is a problem that is only getting worse in the US. It can be solved by creating stricter policies for people to be able to retain their jobs after incarceration, and increasing the amount of living wage jobs available.