America’s incarceration rate raises several serious questions. These include: The correlation between mass imprisonment and crime rates; the impact of incarceration on minority communities and women; the economic costs of the prison system; criminal justice policy; and transitioning ex-offenders back into their communities and into productive employment. Equally important, the prison system today calls into question the effects on our society at a broad level. The combined expenditures of local, State, and Federal governments for law enforcement and corrections personnel now total over $200 billion. Prison construction and operations has become a sought after, if uncertain, tool of economic growth for rural communities. Are there ways to spend less money, enhance public safety, and make a fairer prison system? Having such a large prison population also has significant employment and productivity implications. The economic output of prisoners is mostly lost to society while they are in prison. These negative productivity effects continue in many cases after release.
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