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Beyond the 2.3 million people in the U.S. who are incarcerated, tens of millions more are dealing with the "collateral consequences" of punishment. Many cannot vote or get a driver's license, face barriers to employment, and are prohibited from living with the families who want them back — all because they have a criminal record.
To end mass incarceration, we'll need to undo the policies that make people with criminal records — and formerly incarcerated people most of all — second-class citizens. Below is our key research uncovering the collateral consequences of criminal punishment:
Our first-of-its-kind report shows how all 50 states exclude some people with criminal records from serving on juries, making juries less diverse and trials less fair.
In partnership with Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition, we offer a concise guide to understanding which people in local jails are eligible to vote, and how to bring down barriers that these voters face to casting a ballot.
Our analysis shows that formerly incarcerated people are unemployed at a rate of over 27% — higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period. We also break down this data by race and gender.
We find that people who have been to prison are 10 times more likely to be homeless, and also likely to be in precarious housing situations close to homelessness. Our report includes policy recommendations for solving this housing crisis.
Our report finds that incarcerated people rarely get the chance to make up the education they've missed, impacting their ability to find work after prison.
10 states automatically suspend the driver's licenses of people who commit drug offenses unrelated to driving.
Our analysis finds that Massachusetts' poorest communities are hit hardest by monthly probation fees, which are rooted in harsh, "tough on crime" 1980s rhetoric and make little sense for the state today.
In 2000, Massachusetts amended its constitution to deny incarcerated people the right to vote. We provided the first analysis of how many people lost their right to vote and the racial disparity inherent in this regressive law.
- How 12 states are addressing family separation by incarceration — and why they can and should do more, by Emma Williams, February 27, 2023
Defending incarcerated parents’ rights and attending to the needs of the children are vital goals that more states should pursue.
- How your local public housing authority can reduce barriers for people with criminal records, by Selena Muñoz-Jones and Emily Widra, February 15, 2023
Millions of people with criminal records likely meet the income eligibility requirements for public housing assistance. But needlessly strict local policies lock them out of housing. We explain how your public housing authority may be overly exclusionary.
- Both sides of the bars: How mass incarceration punishes families, by Leah Wang, August 11, 2022
New data shows that, with 1.2 million minor children with a parent in state prison, mass incarceration causes generational harm.
- New data on formerly incarcerated people's employment reveal labor market injustices, by Leah Wang and Wanda Bertram, February 8, 2022
Newly released data doubles down on what we’ve reported before: Formerly incarcerated people face huge obstacles to finding stable employment, leading to detrimental society-wide effects. Considering the current labor market, there may be plenty of jobs available, but they don’t guarantee stability or economic mobility for this vulnerable population.
- Research Roundup: Incarceration can cause lasting damage to mental health, by Katie Rose Quandt and Alexi Jones, May 13, 2021
Incarceration can trigger and worsen symptoms of mental illness — and those effects can last long after someone leaves the prison gates.
- Food insecurity is rising, and incarceration puts families at risk, by Jenny Landon and Alexi Jones, February 10, 2021
Several studies show that formerly incarcerated people - and the children of currently incarcerated people - are at especially high risk of experiencing food insecurity.
- New data: The revolving door between homeless shelters and prisons in Connecticut, by Alexi Jones, February 10, 2021
New statewide data from the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness underscore the harms of criminalizing homelessness and the destabilizing effects of incarceration.
- No escape: The trauma of witnessing violence in prison, by Emily Widra, December 2, 2020
A recent study of recently incarcerated people finds that witnessing violence is a frequent and traumatizing experience in prison.
- New data: Solitary confinement increases risk of premature death after release, by Andrea Fenster, October 13, 2020
Any amount of time spent in solitary confinement increases the risk of death after release from prison, including deaths by suicide, homicide, and opioid overdose.
- Returning from prison and jail is hard during normal times — it’s even more difficult during COVID-19, by Wanda Bertram, September 2, 2020
We review the evidence and call for state and local governments to provide more support for success upon release from prison or jail.
- Sex offender exclusion zones undermine efforts to protect children, by Peter Wagner
Laws in some states unintentionally make all, or almost all, housing and employment off-limits to people on the sex offender registry.
- The Crippling Effect of Incarceration on Wealth, by Meredith Booker, April 26, 2016
Visualizing the racial, ethnic and wealth disparities in incarceration.
- New report from Essie Justice shows women with incarcerated loved ones are traumatized by marginalization, by Lucius Couloute, May 14, 2018
Mass incarceration intensifies the financial and social burdens that already fall too hard on women.
- Progress: With reforms in Iowa and Utah, 12,000 fewer people will be denied driver's licenses every year, by Aleks Kajstura, August 29, 2018
The wealth disparity between young men who experience prison and those who never do is staggering.
- DC ends driver's license suspensions for unrelated drug offenses, by Aleks Kajstura, March 23, 2018
D.C. will no longer suspend driver's licenses for drug offenses completely unrelated to driving, but 12 states still cling to this failed law.
- Bi-partisan legislation introduced to end the automatic suspension of driver's licenses for drug offenses, by Peter Wagner, April 7, 2017
Proposed legislation would undo one of the Drug War's worst ideas, and would undo it at its source -- Congress.
- It's not just the franchise: Mass incarceration undermines political engagement, by Emily Widra, March 10, 2017
Contact with the criminal justice system impacts not only individual experiences of political participation, but also community-wide political engagement.
- Target agrees to compensate thousands in discriminatory hiring case, by Lucius Couloute, April 11, 2018
A new court settlement illustrates the pervasiveness of criminal record discrimination in the United States.
- Massachusetts removes major roadblock to re-entry: unnecessary license suspensions, by Alison Walsh, March 30, 2016
A new bill ends driver's license suspensions for drug offenses unrelated to road safety, eliminating a major barrier toward successful re-entry.
Prisons and jails hurt public health: Not only do incarcerated people suffer from the low quality and high cost of care; in the long term, the communities they return to after they’re released suffer as well.
Community supervision programs have their own collateral consequences, such as burdensome fees and other restrictions that make it hard to lead a normal life.
The way that the Census Bureau counts people in prison leads to a dramatic distortion of representation at local and state levels, and creates an inaccurate picture of communities for research and planning purposes.
Didn't find what you were looking for? We also curate a database of virtually all the empirical criminal justice research available online. See the sections of our Research Library on recidivism and reentry, felon disenfranchisement, education, and community impact.