The cost of expanding the penal system has been substantial. The financial costs are borne by taxpayers, who provide funding for local jails, state and federal prisons, and the operations of the larger criminal justice apparatus associated with institutions of incarceration. The opportunity cost is also considerable. Spending on prisons diverts resources from more effective public safety strategies, services for crime victims, or programs designed to help achieve effective reintegration of people who have been released from prisons. The burden of incarceration also falls on the millions of incarcerated individuals and, the evidence suggests, their families and neighborhoods. More broadly, as a consequence of the unprecedented rise in incarceration rates, the larger society bears the costs of an expanded share of the population that struggles with the stigma and negative effects of the prison experience.


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