Enabling Reinvention

The Problem: Recidivism & Mass Incarceration

The U.S. has a problem with mass incarceration.

The U.S. has five percent of the world’s population yet incarcerates 25% of the world’s prisoners, incarcerating at a rate 4 to 7 times higher than other Western nations. This corrections system impacts American taxpayers over $80 billion per year.

With over two million people “behind bars,” the U.S. has the highest total prison population in the world.

Recidivism is an even larger problem.

The national crime rate and number of prisoners have declined over the past 5 years; however, the percentage of new crimes committed by individuals released from prison has been increasing.

Recidivism has come to be known as “the revolving door” in and out of prisons. 67.8% of all released prisoners are re-arrested within three years of release. Incarceration and recidivism most directly affect non-white and poor individuals, reflecting the “disproportionate minority contact” of the criminal justice system,[1] and the link between poverty and criminal justice system involvement.[2]

Poor communities of color also pay the price of high recidivism, in social and economic terms, via experiencing insufficient public safety,[3] erosion of social relationships, and pervasive intergenerational poverty.[4] Incarceration has a negative effect on economic mobility, with fiscal consequences not only for the formerly incarcerated but their families and communities as well.

 Learn more about how we are working to solve the problem. 


[i] The Independent Committee on Reentry and Employment. Report and Recommendations to New York State on Enhancing Employment Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated People. The Independent Committee on Reentry and Employment, New York.

[ii] Bernadette and Kopf, Daniel. (2015). Prisons of Poverty: Uncovering the pre-incarceration incomes of the imprisoned. Prison Policy Initiative, retrieved from: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/income.html

[iii] DeFina, Robert, and Hannon, Lance. (2013). The Impacts of Mass Incarceration on Poverty. Crime and Delinquency 59.4: 562-586.

[iv] The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010; and deVuono-powell, Saneta, Schweidler, Chris, Walters, Alicia, and Zohrabi, Azadeh. (2015). Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families. Ella Baker Center, Forward Together, Research Action Design, retrieved from http://ellabakercenter.org/who-pays-the-true-cost-of-incarceration-on-families

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