A new report from Prison Policy Initiative “Beyond the Count” verifies that sociologically impacted individuals have greater probabilities of incarceration than their counterparts.
It provides statistics and information that confirm what many people in the criminal justice system already know. Cycles of incarceration for persons in low-income families, foster care, single parent families or homeless families begin during the formidable years, between 16 and 19 years old.
The report contains a compilation of statistics by the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Survey of Prison Inmates. The survey examined persons in state prisons during 2016, but the statistics were not released until late 2020.
“Beyond the Count” categorizes five areas of concern that contribute to the criminalization of young adults.
Those areas include:
Arrest As Youth
The contributive factors reveal:
62% of prisoners are criminalized youth who did not complete high school
38% of prisoners were first arrested before age 16
68% of prisoners were arrested before age 19
42% of prisoners received public assistance before the age of 18
33% of prisoners had at least one parent incarcerated
19% of prisoners lived in subsidized housing or public housing before the age of 18
18% of prisoners lived in foster care before the age of 18
12% of prisoner were homeless residents before the age of 18
Other facts updated in the report include that, on average, incarcerated respondents surveyed had been arrested nine times in their life. It also reveals that the typical person in state prison is 39 years old and has a 10th grade education.
The PPI concludes the lack of education is a result of youthful confinement, which the author believes disrupts a young person’s life and schooling.
Leah Wang, the report’s author, states that half of the people in state prisons meet the criteria for substance use disorder, and 65% of state prisoners were using illicit substances when they committed the crime that led to their incarceration.
Wang suggests people other than reputed drug offenders are still victims of the country’s criminalization policies which hinder addressing health issues surrounding substance abuse. She concludes that the data shows disadvantaged people who encounter the justice system at an early age should not be incarcerated, and instead should be given the care and attention they need as young people.
“Our new report shows this country is locking up the same people it has failed,” Wang said. She believes universal health care, housing and education could improve the statistics provided by the Department of Justice — effectively slowing the revolving door.