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The Effects of High Imprisonment Rates on Communities

When large numbers of parent‐aged adults, especially men, cycle through stays in prison and jail at very high rates, communities are negatively affected in myriad ways, including damage to social networks, social relationships, and long‐term life chances. These effects impair children, family functioning, mental and physical health, labor markets, and economic and political infrastructures. There are considerable methodological challenges in trying to link the consequences of concentrated incarceration to reduced public safety. Findings from studies are mixed. Yet, as empirical evidence grows of the negative collateral consequences of concentrated incarceration, the likelihood that concentrated incarceration is criminogenic in its effects on those communities becomes stronger. No well‐established or proven strategy exists for combating the effects of concentrated incarceration on communities. Most current debates about penal policy are essentially oblivious to the problem. Solutions must flow from changes in the nation’s penal philosophy and its sentencing laws.