Skip to main content

Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families []



Each year, the United States spends $80 billion1 to lock away more than 2.4 million people in its jails and prisons2—budgetary allocations that far outpace spending on housing, transportation, and higher education.3 But costs run deeper than budget line items and extend far beyond the sentences served. These costs are rarely quantified and measured and primarily impact incarcerated populations and the families and communities from whom they are separated, the same people who are already stigmatized, penalized, and punished. Families pay both the apparent and hidden costs while their loved ones serve out sentences in our jails and prisons. Because families are formed in diverse ways and take many forms, the definition used in this report encompasses families built across generations and borders and within and beyond blood relations. The families in this report and those who support loved ones bear the burden to help those individuals re-acclimate to society after serving time. Four decades of unjust criminal justice policies have created a legacy of collateral impacts that last for generations and are felt most deeply by women, low-income families, and communities of color. In March 2014, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Forward Together, and Research Action Design launched a collaborative participatory research project with 20 community-based organizations across the country to address this unjust legacy.


[See the full report, published September 2015, at]


Images (1)
  • Capture

Add Comment

Comments (0)

Copyright © 2022, PACEsConnection. All rights reserved.
Link copied to your clipboard.