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Ten Economic Facts about Crime and Incarceration in the United States

"Crime and high rates of incarceration impose tremendous costs on society, with lasting negative effects on individuals, families, and communities. Rates of crime in the United States have been falling steadily, but still constitute a serious economic and social challenge. At the same time, the incarceration rate in the United States is so high-more than 700 out of every 100,000 people are incarcerated-that both crime scholars and policymakers alike question whether, for nonviolent criminals in particular, the social costs of incarceration exceed the social benefits ... Despite the ongoing decline in crime, the incarceration rate in the United States remains at a historically unprecedented level. This high incarceration rate can have profound effects on society" and is extremely expensive for state and federal agencies (p. 1). This policy memo provides a clear and concise explanation of the impacts of incarceration on communities in the United States. The ten facts are organized into three chapters: the landscape of crime in the U.S.-offenders and victims; the extraordinary growth of mass incarceration in the U.S.; and the economic and social costs of crime and incarceration. Some of these facts include: the majority of criminal offenders are younger than age thirty; federal and state policies have driven up the incarceration rate over the past thirty years; and per capita expenditures on corrections more than tripled over the same time period.