Nearly half of all Americans have an immediate family member who spent time incarcerated, according to a new study by FWD.us and Cornell University.
The new report shows a massive spike in the number of Americans over the past 40 years to spend time behind bars. Now, the new data shows that out of 113 million adults living in the United States, one in seven have had a family member who served more than a year in jail or prison, and one in 34 had a loved one incarcerated for a decade or more.
It could show why 2018 marked the moment when Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 4, the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Act. In January, that measure will automatically restore the voting rights of non-violent ex-cons who have completed their sentences.
Experts estimate some 1.6 million Floridians have returned to society stripped of the right to vote. Amendment 4 means 1.4 million of those individuals will soon return to the voting rolls.
But the study shows the deep impacts of mass incarceration outside of losing the chance to elect officials.
Unsurprisingly, the study shows mass incarceration impacts minority and low-income communities at a greater rate. Among those populations, time in jail brings a financial price as well.
Roughly 65 percent of families in the study reported being unable to meet basic needs such as putting food on the table, paying for housing or keeping up with medical care during the time when a family member is behind bars.
The FWD.us team involved with the study included Zoe Towns, senior director for criminal justice reform at the advocacy group, who led the Criminal Justice Project at Pew Charitable Trusts.
It also included Felicity Rose, director of research and policy for Criminal Justice reform at FWD.us. She published the first nationwide study of length of stay in prison by state.
Carlton Phlllips, a policy director for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, also participated in the study.