Why This Country's Economy Would Actually Be Stronger Without Prisons

Person holding briefcase and newspaper
Zain Murdock
July 30, 2021

It’s true that prisons not only treat Black people like property, but operate as a business, too. But what’s also true? Mass incarceration contributes to high poverty rates, and is actually bad for the overall national economy! Why?

Without mass incarceration, the poverty rate in the US would’ve dropped by about 20% from 1980-2004. This isn’t just because people weren’t making money while incarcerated, but also because of how hard it is for people to find work after release. 

But this actually affects all of us.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research says that the country’s GDP would be $78-87 billion more if people with criminal records were employed. In 2008, for example, that loss was about 1.7 million people. 

And there are better resources to fund instead of wasting our taxpayer money on prisons.

In fact, it’s estimated that if 80% of people with nonviolent offenses weren’t forced into expensive  prisons, the US could SAVE over $7 billion a year. We could use that tax money for affordable housing, jobs, and healthcare! 

But they don’t want that.

The criminal legal system creates a cycle of hyper-criminalizing and incarcerating Black people, then impoverishing Black communities from that incarceration, and finally more "crime" happening because of that poverty. Then it starts all over again! This system is clearly not for us.

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