Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Hidden costs to families of incarceration, reentry

Here's an interesting report titled, "Who Pays?," attempting to assess the costs of incarceration on inmate families and the communities they live in. According to the executive summary:
long-term costs extend beyond the significant sums already paid by individuals and their families for immediate and myriad legal expenses, including cost of attorney, court fees and fines, and phone and visitation charges. In fact, these costs often amount to one year’s total household income for a family and can force a family into debt. Latent costs include, but are not limited to, mental health support, care for untreated physical ailments, the loss of children sent to foster care or extended family, permanent declines in income, and loss of opportunities like education and employment for both the individuals incarcerated and their family members, opportunities that could lead to a brighter future.
Specifically, the research group learned:

People with convictions are saddled with copious fees, fines, and debt at the same time that their economic opportunities are diminished, resulting in a lack of economic stability and mobility. Fortyeight percent of families in our survey overall were unable to afford the costs associated with a conviction, while among poor families (making less than $15,000 per year), 58% were unable to afford these costs. Sixty-seven percent of formerly incarcerated individuals associated with our survey were still unemployed or underemployed five years after their release.

Many families lose income when a family member is removed from household wage earning and struggle to meet basic needs while paying fees, supporting their loved one financially, and bearing the costs of keeping in touch. Nearly 2 in 3 families (65%) with an incarcerated member were unable to meet their family’s basic needs. Fortynine percent struggled with meeting basic food needs and 48% had trouble meeting basic housing needs because of the financial costs of having an incarcerated loved one.

Women bear the brunt of the costs—both financial and emotional—of their loved one’s incarceration. In 63% of cases, family members on the outside were primarily responsible for court-related costs associated with conviction. Of the family members primarily responsible for these costs, 83% were women.

In addition, families incur large sums of debt due to their experience with incarceration. Across respondents of all income brackets, the average debt incurred for court-related fines and fees alone was $13,607, almost one year’s entire annual income for respondents who earn less than $15,000 per year.

Despite their often-limited resources, families are the primary resource for housing, employment, and health needs of their formerly incarcerated loved ones, filling the gaps left by diminishing budgets for reentry services. Two-thirds (67%) of respondents’ families helped them find housing. Nearly one in five families (18%) involved in our survey faced eviction, were denied housing, or did not qualify for public housing once their formerly incarcerated family member returned. Reentry programs, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations combined did not provide housing and other support at the levels that families did.

Incarceration damages familial relationships and stability by separating people from their support systems, disrupting continuity of families, and causing lifelong health impacts that impede families from thriving. The high cost of maintaining contact with incarcerated family members led more than one in three families (34%) into debt to pay for phone calls and visits alone. Family members who were not able to talk or visit with their loved ones regularly were much more likely to report experiencing negative health impacts related to a family member’s incarceration.

The stigma, isolation, and trauma associated with incarceration have direct impacts across families and communities. Of the people surveyed, about one in every two formerly incarcerated persons and one in every two family members experienced negative health impacts related to their own or a loved one’s incarceration. Families, including their incarcerated loved ones, frequently reported Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, nightmares, hopelessness, depression, and anxiety. Yet families have little institutional support for healing this trauma and becoming emotionally and financially stable during and post incarceration.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this applies throughout the criminal justice system. In particular, the legislature looks at probationers as cash cows: court costs, fines, DWI surcharges, probation fees, reimbursement for public defenders, UA fees, sex offender fees, and the list goes on and on. And if the probationer ends up in a community corrections facility, the fees add up again: room and board, transportation, laundry, etc. I can agree to the principle that offenders should pay their way to a greater or lesser extent. However, when you add everything up, the costs are overwhelming, and this directly affects a probationer's family. In an ideal world, restitution should be the first thing collected and disbursed. In reality, it's often the last because the system couldn't afford to operate without the fees. Sadly, the reason all these fees are necessary is because the Texas legislature is committed to doing everything on the cheap. They end up putting all the financial burdens on the people who can least afford to pay because it's so difficult to earn a decent wage with a criminal record.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should reconsider the strategy of getting ahead by committing crimes and victimizing others. If you go to Vegas and put all your chips on number 17 that may not be a good strategy. Likewise, if you put all your chips on committing crimes that too is a big mistake. The families of criminal either support, abet, or condone their illegal activities. The victim pays the big price but even the families of criminals pay a price for this misbehavior. We don't want to talk about who really foots the bill--that would be us (otherwise known as suckers).

Anonymous said...

Actually 9:39 as more and more offenders do the math they plea to do their time and taxpayers and society pay a higher price for incarceration. Or offenders only pay OCA costs to avoid a warrant and just neglect paying probation fees because there is "no...debtors court."
It has become so cliché to legislate probation to carry more and more water up the hill every year without providing any more feed for the horses hauling the water. A good year in probation is "we didn't get cut in funding this year." Legislators are thinking of days long gone when probation departments received enough revenue from probation fees to operate EFFECTIVELY. Now that every other agency office, has managed to convince the legislature that probationers should pay them as well, probation funding has become very unstable. Eventually the train will run out of track.

Anonymous said...

If offenders were required to work an eight to five in exchange for the three hots and a cot and paid for said work, they would be able to have many of these fees paid before release..along with serving the time they deserved for the crimes committed. Tx criminal Justice is messed needs an overhaul

Anonymous said...

We all wring our hands over the stigma associated with incarceration but no one is forcing the criminal to victimize their neighbors or render there neighborhood uninhabitable. Don't want the stigma--don't do the crime.

DEWEY said...

"Sixty-seven percent of formerly incarcerated individuals associated with our survey were still unemployed or underemployed five years after their release." --- Because a lot of employment applications have a box asking "Have you been convicted of a felony in the last (times vary)years ?" That will disqualify many qualified applicants without being even interviewed. BAN THE BOX !!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Too bad judges don't consider the consequences to the family when deciding the fate of a defendant. Consider the family, Judge, when you know damn good and well the defendant's constitutional rights were violated and the cop is lying about it. Grant that motion to suppress "for the family!" It's the right thing to do, it keeps families from being cast into immediate poverty, and it may force the cops to stop violating rights and to start telling the truth. One thing for sure, families impoverished by our current criminal system are sure to feel resentment and complete distrust. How can anyone feel they were treated fairly or judged impartially with the partnering that has evolved between the judges, prosecutors and police? Police lying is commonplace now along with judges who bend over backwards to believe them. How can anyone respect that? Prosecutors don't deny that police lie, their response is that defendants lie more. Not true though, because the majority of defendants don't testify in their own trials. Bottom line, it's up to the judges to restore respect in our system, and that can't be done until they stop trusting liars.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

IMHO - If a person commits a crime and they are put in jail, why then does it become the responsibility of their family to pay the county for their medical care, pay outrageous amounts for phone calls that the county or state get a cut of? The family is now required to foot outrageous bills to the county or state because the inmate is not allowed to earn money while locked up. This is their problem, not the family's. This expense should belong to the government entity holding the person in custody. I know states and counties have over the past decade or so been saddling inmate families with these bills, and will go so far as to take the little money they can scrape together and send their loved one to buy some coffee or a soup (which by the way they buy for a penny or 2 and resell to the inmates at a several hundred percent markup)and just keep it as payment for services. This has been made a law by somee idiots who figure their jobs are more important than our nation's families.

Many try to say these are reasonable fees, maybe, if this person had a choice of healthcare providers, but they dont, it is Shut Up sit here call your family and tell them you need money for medical fees.

If a person cannot earn, you can't force someone else to pay their bill, that is their debt. If you want to give them a bill when they are released, then you have the opportunity to ruin the rest of their life, they can have no vision of success with that nasty Spectre looming over them.

No one cares about rehabilitating, rebuilding or helping people to become better people, Just give me the money.

6:55 explained pretty well how it begins The District Attorneys in every state and county are as bad or worse than the criminals they prosecute. YES I said that, too many times they have shown us they have no scruples, they don't care about justice, they don't care if the defendant is guilty, they want a conviction. They will lie, cheat, withhold evidence, suborn perjury, anything to save that precious conviction rate. Do they get prison sentences? Did the Criminals who lied an put Cameron Willingham to death for a crime they had big suspicions he did not commit, and he didn't, but they let him go to his death. They did not go to prison or even miss a lunch date.

Dewey is correct that if we don't ban the box then we will never fix recidivism, I can of course appreciate that there are some Jobs that require a background check.Security, bank teller etc. I was once turned down a job stocking groceries by H.E.B because I had a felony conviction. Stocking Groceries, HHHMMM.

Adrian Moore said...

Costs to the taxpayers further increase when considering long term involvement in criminal justice.

Mark Cohen, author of "The Costs of Crime and Justice" advises that when the typical high school dropout begins a 10 year career in criminality, if costs are tallied collectively for 1) criminal justice expenses, 2) lost tax revenue, 3) lost child support payments and 4) losses to victims, the cumulative costs to the American public over the 10 year period of time approximates $2,000,000.

On the other hand, Cohen reported September 11th, 2015 in Austin that when we invest in early crime and delinquency prevention strategies, common to those used by Council on At-Risk Youth (CARY) targeting high risk youth in our school disciplinary system, using evidence based social cognitive skills training programs, in collaboration with our school district system, each individual youth participant can potentially return $4,000,000 to the Texas economy over his or her lifetime.

From a return on investment standpoint, it is very good business strategy to go upstream. Considerable research in Texas alone validates that our school disciplinary system is the gateway into juvenile and criminal justice. (See Adrian Moore (