Mass Incarceration

What the US’ Mass Incarceration Regime Costs Black Women – Non Profit News

Editor’s word: In Stolen Wealth, Hidden Power: The Case for Reparations for Mass Incarceration (2022), sociologist Tasseli McKay gives a “cradle-to-grave accounting” of mass incarceration’s harms by tallying its social and financial prices. McKay finds that “the damages that may be fairly estimated from present proof whole a staggering $13.19 trillion”—a determine akin to the entire worth of the US’ Black-White racial wealth hole. The next excerpt focuses on the methods the carceral system harms poor and working-class ladies of colour—particularly Black ladies—caring for incarcerated family members. A condensed model of the textual content has been edited for republication, with permission from College of California Press.

On any given day, hundreds of girls go away properties throughout America and enter jail voluntarily. They furnish their very own transport, typically touring for hours on public trains and buses. They dress themselves and their youngsters in keeping with the correctional gown code, submitting to searches of their our bodies and belongings and myriad types of intimate regulation and humiliation. To refer to those moms, grandmothers, companions, and co-parents of the imprisoned as “guests” is to overlook most of what’s occurring as they flow into out and in of jail amenities en masse. Their actions comprise what the students and activists of the Essie Justice Group aptly describe as “another Great Migration.”1 They’ve wrapped their lives across the prisons that maintain their family members, navigating a uniquely cell, however nonetheless punishing, type of confinement.

Surprising proof of this comes from demographer Christopher Wildeman’s rigorous investigation of the population-level well being penalties of mass incarceration. Wildeman examined the connection between adjustments within the nationwide imprisonment charge and adjustments in American life expectancy, a central indicator of total inhabitants well being. He uncovered an obvious paradox: Will increase within the male incarceration charge have depressed ladies’s life expectancy greater than they’ve males’s.13


Including Up the Invisible Burden

Girls’s labor on behalf of their incarcerated family members is free to the state, however it comes at excessive private value to ladies themselves. The narratives of Multi-site Household Research individuals, learn alongside prior analysis on ladies’s experiences with member of the family imprisonment, assist us make sense of the gender paradox noticed in population-scale research of incarceration’s collateral penalties. Within the context of heteropatriarchal norms that shift males’s social and materials burdens to their feminine companions and members of the family, mass incarceration extracts labor and materials assets from poor ladies—significantly ladies of colour—that they will scarcely afford to spare. As Beth Richie argues, “Towards the backdrop of divestment of fundamental providers in low-income neighborhoods and mass incarceration, ladies of colour are actually burdened in ways in which have untold prices and penalties.”50 Just like the labor of prisoners themselves, the uncompensated work that ladies carry out in service of their incarcerated family members’ survival and well-being is each invisible and essential to the hypercarceral undertaking.

Valuing and compensating ladies’s work on behalf of family members affected by incarceration will probably be an particularly pivotal activity within the coming interval of decarceration. Qualitative analysis means that feminine members of the family present intensive case administration, psychological well being care, housing, job searches, and transportation help on behalf of their incarcerated and reentering family members, in addition to laboring to maintain them out of hassle with police and parole officers.

Current information don’t enable us to quantify the total magnitude of the burdens that ladies soak up.

However, accessible proof does help preliminary, conservative estimates of a few of these prices and harms. First, focusing solely on the prisoners who do obtain visits, feminine members of the family expend roughly $5,594.16 per yr (in inflation-adjusted {dollars}) to take care of communications with the prisoner, together with visits, phone calls, and mail. Due to this fact, over the 4 focal many years of the mass incarceration interval, the grownup members of the family of prisoners (predominantly ladies) have expended a minimum of $104 billion ($104,044,278,074) to take care of contact with incarcerated family members. The racial composition of American jail populations through the focal four-decade interval means that a minimum of $39.5 billion ($39,536,825,668) of those expenditures had been made on behalf of Black prisoners.53

Second, to create a lower-bound estimate for the intensive reintegrative help that many ladies present for members of the family coming back from jail, we are able to draw on value estimates related to offering skilled case administration for returning prisoners. The Maryland Reentry Partnership Initiative gives a helpful mannequin for understanding the price of delivering case administration providers to a common inhabitants of returning prisoners—those that is perhaps most akin to people receiving casual, uncompensated reentry help from their companions, coparents, moms, and different family members. The typical annualized value of those providers per participant within the very restricted jurisdictions that supply them was $6,900 in 2004 {dollars}54 or $9,505 in 2020 {dollars}. Summing the annual variety of people launched from United States prisons for the years 1978 to 2018 signifies that 20,459,069 releases from jail occurred throughout this era.55 Assuming conservatively that every jail launch occasion necessitated the equal of the light-touch types of reentry help delivered by the Maryland initiative from members of the family, the inflation-adjusted worth of this labor could be about $194 billion ($194,463,450,845). Of this determine, roughly $73.9 billion ($73,896,111,321) of this labor worth has been expended on behalf of Black reentrants.

Lastly, we are able to create a partial estimate of the impacts of those burdens on ladies’s well being. Most of the well being impacts that ladies seem to maintain throughout and after a member of the family’s incarceration, akin to diabetes and HIV, haven’t but been studied in ways in which allow us to isolate the surplus incidence amongst ladies that’s related to the racially focused incarceration of their members of the family. However Lee and colleagues’ nationally consultant estimates counsel that member of the family incarceration (in jail or jail) greater than doubles ladies’s danger of a coronary heart assault or stroke (odds ratio = 2.53).56 This burden lands disproportionately on Black ladies. Outcomes from one other nationally consultant examine, the FamHIS survey, point out that 64 % of Black ladies have had a member of the family incarcerated in jail or jail, in comparison with 46 % of white ladies.57

Extrapolating the FamHIS estimates to inhabitants information collected by america Census Bureau means that 9,964,906 grownup Black ladies and 51,533,810 grownup non-Black ladies alive at the moment have skilled member of the family incarceration. I estimate that this expertise is related to a complete of 9,040,311 extra incidents of coronary heart assault or stroke, together with 1,464,841 extra incidents sustained by Black ladies. The well being care prices and misplaced productiveness precipitated by a typical cardiovascular occasion are estimated at $213,333.58 We are able to, subsequently, anticipate that grownup ladies alive at the moment have sustained roughly $1.93 trillion ($1,928,596,666,563) in monetizable damages from the cardiovascular burden of family-member incarceration, $312 billion ($312,498,925,053) of which have been borne by Black ladies. The incarceration of a accomplice or coparent additionally will increase ladies’s danger of behavioral well being issues, together with main melancholy. Nationally, the twelve-month prevalence of main depressive episodes amongst ladies is 11.1 %, and the prevalence of accomplice incarceration amongst grownup ladies in america is 14 %.59 Utilizing Wildeman and colleagues’ figures for the elevated odds of a serious depressive episode amongst ladies who’ve skilled the incarceration of their youngsters’s father,60 I estimate that American ladies alive at the moment have possible skilled roughly 488,559 main depressive episodes related to the incarceration of a accomplice or coparent. The typical financial burden related to a serious melancholy occasion, together with each well being care prices and productiveness losses, is $82,157 (transformed by the writer to inflation-adjusted US {dollars}).61 The mixed value of such occasions is roughly $40.1 billion ($40,138,541,763). Of those prices, a minimum of $7.7 billion ($7,695,892,661) are related to accomplice incarceration-related melancholy episodes amongst Black ladies.

Estimating the prices to ladies of member of the family incarceration essentially entails imprecision. However my specific estimates make a set of conservative assumptions and mandatory omissions (the place underlying information are incomplete or insufficiently rigorous). The possible web results of these assumptions and omissions is that the sums offered listed here are a lot decrease than the precise worth that ladies pay.


Repairing Hurt to Companions and Dad and mom 

The personal subsidies and uncompensated labor extracted from prisoners’ members of the family haven’t solely supported current and former prisoners themselves. They’ve backed an in any other case untenably overblown carceral undertaking. They usually have compensated for the shortcomings of the general public providers and programs that fail to help folks coming back from jail. The unwieldiness of the burden carried by prisoners’ members of the family, overwhelmingly poor ladies of colour, highlights two pressing coverage duties: making particular person restitution to them as victims of the political violence of mass incarceration and creating an ample public security web that doesn’t rely on ladies’s expensive invisible labor.

Repaying the assets which have been extracted from Black ladies below the present punishment regime and compensating ladies for damages to their well being and well-being are a crucial a part of bringing the age of mass incarceration to a detailed. Black ladies have been particularly harmed by the racially focused use of mass incarceration as a tactic of political violence towards their communities. They’re owed particular person restitution. The calculable portion of girls’s financial losses related to the mass imprisonment of Black males (estimated within the previous part of this chapter at $434 billion) would ideally be returned to them in methods that aren’t merely appropriated to the care of different weak people—people whose care have to be made a public and collective precedence as a substitute. To make sure that ladies of colour themselves reap the advantage of restitution, belief funds could possibly be established for affected ladies, with the annual curiosity accessible for any objective the recipient needs and the nontransferable principal worth of the fund accessible for masking ladies’s main prices of dwelling on retirement or different exit from income-generating work (such because the beginning of a kid or the arrival of a incapacity). Some portion of girls’s reparative entitlements may additionally be invested in particular person well being care spending accounts for use for the care of the recipient’s personal bodily and psychological well being and well-being.

Establishment-building reparations that finish public cost-shifting to all poor and working-class ladies ought to accompany particular person reparations to affected Black ladies. Basic transformation of public security, correctional, and human providers programs is required—eliminating the coercive use of girls’s uncompensated, personal labor to meet important public capabilities. Regulation enforcement practices that oversurveil and underprotect poor communities of colour deputize ladies to maintain males “out of hassle” whereas failing to help ladies’s security. They have to be radically remade.

The highly effective roles that particular person ladies—and the sturdy neighborhood social networks primarily maintained by ladies—have lengthy performed in stopping violence and damage must be reimagined as appropriately remunerated work. Girls who’ve performed these casual, unpaid roles through the mass incarceration period, significantly poor ladies of colour, transgender ladies, and people dwelling in hyperincarcerated communities, have to be saved on the forefront of efforts to design new public security and first-response programs operated by and for his or her communities.62 By way of the long-standing nationwide management of Important Resistance, based in 1997, a bunch of potential options to incarceration have been developed and examined throughout america, together with the Hurt Free Zone communities and different grassroots work. Massive-scale public funding from all ranges of presidency is required to additional implement and consider these methods.

The mass-scale correctional programs of the present period are wholly unsustainable with out gendered labor exploitation. Girls have been unjustly burdened with a set of near-impossible duties: sustaining males’s bodily and psychological well being below brutal circumstances of deprivation and violent management; sustaining household relationships within the context of intensive contact restrictions, communication surveillance, lengthy journey distances, unreasonable prices, and formidable logistical limitations; fulfilling the crushing array of personal and state-imposed monetary obligations left behind when males are forcibly eliminated; and offering intensive reintegration help when they’re redeposited, empty-handed, of their communities. On condition that present ranges of correctional expenditure are already extensively considered untenable and unsustainable by the state governments that fund them,63 this can be very tough to ascertain how our present correctional programs could possibly be made to function humanely with out large underwriting from poor ladies. They need to be eradicated.

Sturdy public investments in neighborhood behavioral well being providers are crucial to allow the secure dismantling of correctional programs and to unburden poor ladies from the work that such programs impose on them. Vital public funding in residential therapy providers represents an integral part of profitable programs transformation. Smaller scale, trauma-informed, restorative types of residential care (together with involuntary dedication for these whose behavioral well being points put others or themselves in peril) will probably be key within the new behavioral well being infrastructure. Broadening the supply of no-cost, intensive outpatient and residential psychological well being and substance abuse therapy providers can also be essential for supporting ladies’s restoration from the behavioral well being harm that mass incarceration has wrought.

To assist meet the burgeoning want for behavioral well being providers that reply to shoppers’ cultural contexts and life experiences, specialised scholar mortgage compensation applications must be developed to help those that have frontline expertise with mass incarceration (together with ladies who’ve been criminalized themselves and people who have supported incarcerated family members) in designing and delivering next-generation psychological well being care and habit therapy. The Federally Certified Well being Middle main care mannequin could possibly be tailored to make such providers extensively, freely, and domestically accessible in city communities which have been focused for mass incarceration. These identical communities will function the entrance traces for the large undertaking of decarceration, they usually urgently want public infrastructures to help wholesome integration for former prisoners.

The long-awaited transition from an period of mass incarceration to considered one of mass decarceration will probably be socially and economically disastrous for ladies if an insufficient social security web and community-based helps for returning prisoners usually are not addressed. We should start to interchange the huge structure of personal helps that ladies assemble round their family members with a strong well being and human providers infrastructure able to supporting the wants of all households. Modeling such programs on the wants and visions of those that have been affected by mass incarceration will assist to make sure that they successfully serve the weak and marginalized extra broadly.

Establishment-building investments would additionally assist to shift the burden of supporting neighborhood reintegration for ex-prisoners away from struggling members of the family and again onto the general public programs liable for eradicating folks from households and communities within the first place. Primary social welfare applications have to be expanded or restored to fulfill the long-term wants of poor and working-class ladies (disproportionately ladies of colour) within the context of the large caring obligations that they shoulder. The overriding, intensive focus of up to date Non permanent Help for Needy Households (TANF) “workfare” insurance policies on pushing poor moms into low-wage shiftwork is incompatible with the heavy calls for of their uncompensated care work. Federal intervention to broaden the supply of free childcare for low-income households might assist convey financial stability inside attain for extra ladies and households. So might federal and native initiatives to deal with the pressing want for secure, inexpensive housing in city communities.

The unwieldy and surveillance-oriented means of qualifying for and accessing advantages from public applications provides to the invisible labor that poor ladies undertake on behalf of returning prisoners and their youngsters. To alleviate the burdens of unpaid casework that fall on feminine members of the family of present and former prisoners, advantages eligibility and receipt have to be streamlined. Price-effective and viable methods for modernizing the enrollment and supply of advantages (like meals stamps) exist however had been largely halted below the Trump administration, primarily based on unsubstantiated claims that they made it simpler for folks to obtain a profit “after they clearly don’t want it.”64 Such methods could possibly be revived and reinvigorated to ease the gratuitous labor burden they place on poor ladies.

However even essentially the most streamlined set of public entitlement applications is a less-efficient mode of help than cash-value, recurring earnings funds with no strings hooked up. A fundamental assured earnings program might radically strengthen and streamline the social security web whereas eliminating the necessity for poor ladies’s administrative labor to entry help for themselves and their family members. The Magnolia Mom’s Belief, a pilot fundamental assured earnings program, offers $1,000 in month-to-month money help to low-income Black moms in Jackson, Mississippi, for twelve months. Launched by Springboard to Alternatives, the belief imposes no restrictions on how funds will be spent or on how moms use their time whereas receiving the help. It goals, as a substitute, to “present the mandatory freedom for individuals to outline significant work for themselves.”65

The Financial Safety Mission, which helps and research assured earnings applications like these, means that community-based applications like Magnolia Mom’s Belief could possibly be successfully delivered to scale by state and federal earnings tax reform. Their proposed Price-of-Dwelling Refund insurance policies would modify the federal Earned Earnings Tax Credit score (EITC) to offer an $8,000-per-worker credit score to low-and-middle-income households. It could additionally develop EITC to incorporate households with out youngsters and people performing essential work outdoors the formal financial system, akin to full-time caregivers. It could additionally modernize the profit to allow computerized submitting and permit households to elect month-to-month funds relatively than an annual refund for continuity of earnings.66

 Collectively, these efforts might assist finish the extortion of girls’s labor and assets that has outlined the hypercarceral period, restore to ladies a few of what they’ve sacrificed, and maybe even construct a brand new public infrastructure primarily based on the intimate ethics of care.




Tasseli McKay, Stolen Wealth, Hidden Energy: The Case for Reparations for Mass Incarceration (College of California Press, 2022), pp. 71, 75, 88–96. Excerpted and reprinted with permission.



      1. Gina Clayton and others, As a result of She’s Highly effective: The Political Isolation and Resistance of Girls with Incarcerated Liked Ones (Los Angeles and Oakland, CA: Essie Justice Group, 2018), 67.
      1. Christopher Wildeman, “Imprisonment and (Inequality in) Inhabitants Well being,” Social Science Analysis, 41 (2012): 74–91.
      1. Beth E. Richie, “The Social Influence of Mass Incarceration on Girls,” in Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Penalties of Mass Imprisonment, ed. Marc Mauer and Meda Chesney-Lind (New York: New Press, 2011), 147.
      2. E. Ann Carson and Joseph Mulako-Wangota, Rely of Complete Releases (Washington, DC: US Division of Justice, 2020),
      3. Valerie A. Clark and Grant Duwe, “Distance Issues: Inspecting the Elements That Influence Prisoner Visitation in Minnesota,” Felony Justice and Conduct 44, no. 2 (2017): 184–204,
      4. Mimi Cantwell, Prisoners in 1978, Nationwide Jail Statistics Program (Washington, DC: US Division of Justice, 1979),; E. Ann Carson, Prisoners in 2018 (Washington, DC: US Division of Justice, 2020),
      5. John Roman et al., Influence and Price Profit Evaluation of the Maryland Reentry Partnership Initiative (Washington, DC: City Institute, Justice Coverage Middle, 2007),
      6. Carson and Mulako-Wangota, Rely of Complete Releases.
      7. Hedwig Lee et al., “A Heavy Burden: The Cardiovascular Well being Penalties of Having a Household Member Incarcerated,” American Journal of Public Well being 104, no. 3 (2014): 421–27.
      8. Peter Okay. Enns et al., “What Proportion of Individuals Have Ever Had a Household Member Incarcerated? Proof from the Household Historical past of Incarceration Survey (FamHIS),” Socius 5 (2019):
      9. Dalia Giedrimiene and Rachel King, “Summary 207: Burden of Cardiovascular Illness (CVD) on Financial Price. Comparability of Outcomes in US and Europe,” Circulation: Cardiovascular High quality and Outcomes 10, no. suppl_3 (March 2017): x,
      10. Evelyn Bromet et al., “Cross-Nationwide Epidemiology of DSM-IV Main Depressive Episode,” BMC Drugs 9, no. 1 (2011): 90,; Enns et al., “What Proportion of Individuals.”
      11. Christopher Wildeman, Jason Schnittker, and Kristin Turney, “Despair by Affiliation? The Psychological Well being of Moms with Kids by Lately Incarcerated Fathers,” American Sociological Overview 77, no. 2 (2012): 216–43.
      12. Gordon Parker et al., “Prices of the Principal Temper Problems: A Research of Comparative Direct and Oblique Prices Incurred by These with Bipolar I, Bipolar II and Unipolar Problems,” Journal of Affective Problems 149, no. 1 (2012): 46–55,
      13. Katherine Beckett, “The Politics, Promise, and Peril of Felony Justice Reform within the Context of Mass Incarceration,” Annual Overview of Criminology 1, no. 1 (2018): 235–59,
      14. Council on State Governments, Confined and Expensive. Washington, DC: CSG Justice Middle, June 2019.
      15. United States Division of Agriculture, “USDA Proposes to Shut SNAP Automated Eligibility Loophole,” press launch, July 23, 2019,
      16. Springboard to Alternatives, “Magnolia Mom’s Belief,” 2020,
      17. Elaine Maag, Donald Marron, and Erin Huffer, Increasing the Earned Earnings Tax Credit score: The Financial Safety Mission’s Price-of-Dwelling Refund (Washington, DC: City Institute, 2019),
      18. Clayton et al., As a result of She’s Highly effective, 83–85.



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