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Population members and staff are certainly affected by the inhumane conditions inside US prisons. Families are affected due to the stress of worrying about their loved ones and the cost of staying connected and supporting their loved ones' basic needs. But what about the general public? Are they affected? Texas Prisons Community Advocates believes that they are. Why should they care? Society at large MUST understand that what happens behind prison fences doesn't stay behind those fences. 

The #I'mAffected campaign's mission is to address the false narratives surrounding mass incarceration by educating the public on how mass incarceration negatively affects all of society and amplifying and making a space for the voices of system-impacted people. Through this campaign, people will be unified from all walks of life towards more humane conditions and a reduction to the carceral footprint in the US. 

"After nearly half a century of ballooning incarceration rates, the US is no safer than peer nations that, on average, incarcerate at only 15 percent the rate the US does. " - Health Affairs

The US leads in incarceration, and we are taking the top spot ahead of countries I don't think any American would like to be compared with. Click the button below to read an excellent report on where the US stands. 

The problem

Mass incarceration is not working, and its effects are costing society. So why do we stay on this course? Most frequently, especially in states like Texas, the foremost talking point is that we keep SOCIETY SAFER by LOCKING PEOPLE UP, and bad people should stay locked up for as long as possible. The research just doesn't back that up. According to a 2021 analysis of 116 studies, "Spending time behind bars either didn’t affect a person’s future crime risk or slightly increased it, compared with people who received a sentence that didn’t involve imprisonment. That finding held true for men and women, young people and adults, people who served time in county jails and those housed in state prisons. In no situation did time behind bars reduce a criminal’s risk of future crime, Damon Petrich of the University of Cincinnati reported in the Journal Crime & Justice." 

The Costs

Societal Costs
"Most justice-involved people in the U.S. are not accused of serious crimes; more often, they are charged with misdemeanors or non-criminal violations. Yet even low-level offenses, like technical violations of probation and parole, can lead to incarceration and other serious consequences. Rather than investing in community-driven safety initiatives, cities and counties are still pouring vast amounts of public resources into the processing and punishment of these minor offenses." Prison Policy Initiative
"People experiencing homelessness are 11 times more likely to face incarceration when compared to the general population, and formerly incarcerated individuals are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public. In fact, the rate of homelessness among adult state and federal prison inmates is four to six times the annual rate of homelessness in the general population." And the cycle repeats.  - Texas Center for Justice and Equity Costs
"At least a third of the U.S. inmate population falls under the poverty threshold at the time of arrest, making them more likely to be charged with a felony and more susceptible to homelessness upon their release, especially given the challenges of finding stable housing with a felony record."  - Texas Center for Justice and Equity

"After decades of spending trillions to strip people of their rights, break family bonds, and imprint the mark of a criminal record that enforces long-term housing and employment challenges, the US has incurred a massive human debt. " - Health Affairs

Familial Costs
"Half of people in prison are parents to minors, leaving 1.25 million kids struggling to cope. Nearly half (47%) of the approximately 1.25 million people in state prison are parents of minor children, and about 1 in 5 (19%) of those children is age 4 or younger."  - Aug 11, 2022, Prison Policy Initiative
This is how things look to the child:
NO WARNING Arrest and incarceration is usually a sudden thing. There is no way to prepare.
EMOTIONAL TRAUMA If a child is present when the parent is arrested, it is especially traumatic.
WORRY ABOUT THE PARENT The child knows the parent is in a lot of trouble and worries about what is going to happen.
SUDDEN FINANCIAL CRISIS If the parent was the wage-earner, the family is thrown into immediate financial crisis.
SCHOOL WORK SUFFERS The child begins to have problems in school. Classmates make fun of them, and their attendance and grades suffer.
SEPARATION BY DISTANCE TO PRISON Now the parent may be 200-300 miles away and they have no control over whether anyone will take them to see their parent. (In Texas, that distance can be much further. - Prison Fellowship
Health Costs

"Each year in prison takes 2 years off an individual's life expectancy. With over 2.3 million people locked up, mass incarceration has shortened the overall U.S. life expectancy by 5 years." - Prison Policy Initiative

"Mass incarceration and the failure to reduce prison and jail populations quickly led directly to an increase in COVID-19 cases, not just inside correctional facilities, but in the communities and counties that surround them." - Prison Policy Initiative

"Not only does the world’s largest system of human imprisonment not effectively deter crime, but, as COVID-19 has made clear and as I explain below, it also severely undermines national public health and global biosecurity." - Health Affairs

Financial Costs

"The Bureau of Justice Statistics reckons that the United States spends more than $80 billion each year to keep roughly 2.3 million people behind bars. Many experts say that figure is a gross underestimate, though, because it leaves out myriad hidden costs that are often borne by prisoners and their loved ones, with women overwhelmingly shouldering the financial burden." - The Marshall Project

"The $80 billion spent annually on corrections has been cited as the cost of incarceration. However, a growing body of research suggests the true cost of incarceration far exceeds the amount spent on corrections. This is because corrections spending ignores costs borne by incarcerated persons, families, children, and communities. Examples of these social costs are the foregone wages of incarcerated persons, increased infant mortality, and increased criminality of children with incarcerated parents. While these costs do not appear on government budgets, they reduce the aggregate welfare of society and should be considered when creating public policy." - Institute for Justice Research and Development

How do we change the course we are on?

We start by prioritizing true rehabilitation over punishment by increasing access to programs, job training,  and educational opportunities.
We recognize that dehumanizing prisoners is the same action the prisoner displayed towards their victims making us no better. All human beings are deserving of dignity. We MUST be examples
of a better way.
We learn from and follow the lead of others who have created proven, measured positive changes.
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