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Poverty drives the criminal justice system in the U.S., and in turn, the prison industry.

Expand chart
Data: Brookings Institution; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

By the numbers: In the 8 years leading up to incarceration, about half of people in prison had no income, according to a 2018 study by the Brookings Institution. Less than 10% made $25,000 or more in any one year over the same period.

  • About one-third of all 30-year-old men without work either were or are in prison, the study found.
  • Four years after being released, about half of formerly incarcerated people have no income — just as before.
  • 83% of formerly incarcerated people are arrested at least once within the 9 years following their release from state prison, according to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
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