Donald Braman, author of Doing Time on the Outside:Incarceration and Family Life in Urban America, was quoted in the recent New York Times article “Time and Punishment: Prison and the Poverty Trap,” which investigated the effects of long term prison sentences have on the families and communities of the incarcerated. “For black men in their 20s and early 30s without a high school diploma, the incarceration rate is so high — nearly 40 percent nationwide — that they’re more likely to be behind bars than to have a job.”
Carl Harris, one of the primary subjects of the Times piece, was sentenced for 20 years for selling drugs in his early twenties. While in prison, he earned only $1.15/hour in prison wages to support his wife and two daughters. They were often homeless in the time between the beginning and end of his sentence. Broadly, higher incarceration rates have been tied to faltering levels of education, income, housing and health, as well as higher rates of teenage pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.
“The social deprivation and draining of capital from these communities may well be the greatest contribution our state makes to income inequality,” Dr. Braman said. “There is no social institution I can think of that comes close to matching it.”