Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

In September 2015, the Ella Baker Center, Forward Together, Research Action Design, and 20 other organizations across the country launched Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families. The report proves that the costs of locking up millions of people in jail cells is much deeper than we think – when we lock up individuals we also break apart their families and communities.

This new report reveals the overwhelming debt, mental and physical ailments and severed family bonds that are some of the hidden consequences of mass incarceration in the United States. The situation is dire, but a better approach is possible according to Who Pays? which suggests critical and achievable family-centered reforms. Read the report, and share the powerful findings. 

Right now, we are in a critical moment where we can win family-centered, community-driven solutions. Help us take the next step by starting conversations in your community about how incarceration hurts families, and how we can create change:

Organize a conversation on ending mass incarceration at your place of worship, your office, your reading group, or in your living room where you can discuss the report's findings, recommendations, and local opportunities to take action. Contact us for more resources on hosting a discussion group, and please report back and tell us how it went: zaineb@ellabakercenter.org. We encourage you to include people who have been affected by the criminal justice system, as well as community service providers who can share information about available resources. 

Suggested discussion questions:

  • What did you find most surprising about the report? Were there any stories or findings that particularly moved you or made you feel compelled to take action?
  • How do the issues raised in the report relate to your own life or someone in your family?
  • In what ways did the report challenge you to think about how an arrest or criminal conviction might burden a person and their family for life?
  • In each section, there were examples of barriers that formerly incarcerated people, currently incarcerated people, and their families face. How might the family's circumstances have been different if they were offered support instead of punishment?
  • How do the findings in the report relate to what is happening in your community? 
  • What can community members do to raise awareness about how criminalization and incarceration hurt families?

Learn more about our work.