Identifying those who have paid their debt to society
Rates of incarceration, as well as crime, “disproportionately impact low-income and minority communities, and contribute to the social and economic marginalization of the poor.” African American and Hispanic men and women are more likely to be low income, while prison populations draw “disproportionately from poorer neighborhoods.”
Women are the fastest growing population in the U.S. correctional system. Since many women who become incarcerated already experience economic insecurity, “involvement with the justice system can push them and their families into even deeper financial crisis or, worse, provide a direct pathway back to jail for failure to pay off onerous criminal justice debt.”
An analysis of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which began in 1979, showed that “serving time in prison was associated with a 40 percent reduction in earnings and with reduced job tenure, reduced hourly wages, and higher unemployment.” In 2008, it was calculated that the U.S. economy “lost the equivalent of 1.5 to 1.7 million workers” and economic output "likely somewhere between $57 and $65 billion" as a result of the reduction in employment suffered by ex-offenders.
A recent poll found that men with criminal records account for about 34% of all non-working men ages 25 to 54. Surveys have shown that around 9 in 10 employers in the U.S. conduct background checks when hiring for at least some positions, although recently some states and cities have passed laws requiring employers to postpone checks until later on in the hiring process.
The majority of states do not provide returning citizens with a form of government-issued photo ID. Some, including Arizona, California, and Wisconsin, allow state inmates who have been released “to exchange their corrections-department documentation for a state-issued ID or for prison documents to meet primary identification requirements for other state-issued forms of ID.” Some states require ex-felons to apply to have their voting rights restored, while some require that ex-felons must wait until after completing their sentence before their voting rights are restored.
Many local and state-wide service organizations and re-entry programs provide assistance in obtaining required documents and government-issued photo identification.