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How the U.S. imprisons the poor

Around half of people who are imprisoned in the U.S. had no earnings in the years leading up to their incarceration — and the year before the percentage jumps to 80%, according to a new study by the Brookings Institution which examined IRS filings and the BJS National Prisoner Survey.

Data: Brookings Institution; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Why it matters: The U.S. has the highest imprisonment rates in the world — and a quarter of formerly incarcerated Americans will end up back in prison within 8 years of their release, often due to the difficulty in making a living with a criminal record. Joblessness and poverty not only characterize the life of former prisoners, but also the life of those who will end up in prison,

One stark statistic: Three years before being incarcerated, less than half of prime-age men are employed, and of those employed, only 13% earned more than $15,000 — with a median earning of $6,250.

Other notables:

  • About one third of all 30-year-old men without work — and about half of those from below-median income families — are either in prison or are unemployed former prisoners, the study found.
  • Girls from families in the lowest 10% for family income are almost 17 times more likely to be incarcerated than those from the top 10%. For boys, that disparity jumps to a factor of 20.
  • Men growing up in single-parent families in the in the bottom 30% for family income make up almost half of the male prison population.
  • The Brookings study looked at neighborhoods with the highest and lowest incarceration rates. Neighborhoods that were predominately black, had high child poverty rates and high male unemployment rates characterized the top neighborhoods for incarceration. And white, affluent zip codes made up the neighborhoods with the lowest incarceration rates.
  • The jump in no earnings the year before incarceration is most likely linked to criminal activity and jail time before trial or sentencing.

Go deeper: The puzzle of getting former convicts into jobs.

Jonathan Swan 5 hours ago
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Bolton bombshell: the clashes to come

John Bolton
John Bolton speaks at CPAC in 2016. Photo: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sources close to President Trump say he feels John Bolton, hurriedly named last night to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, will finally deliver the foreign policy the president wants — particularly on Iran and North Korea.

Why it matters: We can’t overstate how dramatic a change it is for Trump to replace H.R. McMaster with Bolton, who was U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under President George W. Bush.

Erica Pandey 6 hours ago
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How China became a global power of espionage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

As China’s influence spreads to every corner of the globe under President Xi Jinping, so do its spies.

Why it matters: China has the money and the ambition to build a vast foreign intelligence network, including inside the United States. Meanwhile, American intelligence-gathering on China is falling short, Chris Johnson, a former senior China analyst for the CIA who's now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells Axios: "We have to at least live up to [China's] expectations. And we aren't doing that."