The Price is Wrong: The Social and Fiscal Costs of Current U.S. Public Policy on Crime

In my research, I analyzed the costs of the United States’ current prison system. The issues I focused on were mass incarceration, high recidivism rates, racial bias, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Throughout the nation, thousands are being placed into prison cells with no hope for their future. With no financial safety net, many slip into poverty after being released. This only increases the problem, as they are then more likely to commit crimes. I examined the current data on all topics,
finding the costs of current practices and the benefits of changing such practices. The United States has the largest incarceration rates in the world, and since 1980 incarceration rates have quadrupled. Racial bias also leads young black students to be unfairly treated by the school system, as they are disproportionately suspended at a higher rate than white student. This can lead to a road of future crime, as students who are suspended are more likely to drop out than those who have never been suspended.

In my research, I examined possible solutions to these problems. First, decriminalizing drugs and offering treatment instead could reduce the national population in prisons and jails, as well as get more people help. I found that we are spending billions of dollars a year for a largely ineffective system. Funding specialized school programs instead of
relying on suspending students has shown to be a more effective method of
teaching students to behave. I also mentioned Portugal’s decriminalization of drugs policy, which has seen great success in the nation. They were able to dramatically decrease the amount of drug-related deaths as well as increase treatment. I mentioned Norway’s incredible prisons, one of which has large televisions and large glass windows in the rooms. Norway has the lowest rates of recidivism in the world, so I researched how effective these prisons are. 

My mentor was very helpful in providing me resources to look at, as well as answering any questions regarding the writing and formatting of the project. She was very knowledgeable in this area of study and was able to correct me and guide me.  

Overall, this experience has been really interesting and would like to do research again in the future. In the future, I would like to be able to create policies that would bring economic prosperity for a lot of people. At the end of the day, those who are incarcerated are still people. We should be doing everything we can to rehabilitate them and bring back healthy people back into society.

Update on “The Price is Wrong: The Long-Term Economic Disadvantages of U.S. Public Policy on Crime”

Currently, I am doing the finishing touches of my research. I have collected data regarding the direct and indirect costs of our current prison system. This includes the cost of overpopulation of our jails and prisons (direct cost) and the cost of the school-to-prison pipeline (indirect cost). I have looked into possible solutions, including the decriminalization of drug usage. Portugal recently made great improvement in drug-related crimes, simply by changing their public policy to view drug abuse as an illness, not a crime. As I am not carrying out my own data collection, it has been quite difficult to not simply summarize what someone else has said. There is already so much information about how inefficient our system is, so that is why I wanted to highlight the problems and then explore the solutions. I am thankful for my professor and this opportunity for allowing me to focus and elaborate on an idea. I would love to do more research in the future. This experience has solidified my interest in economic development and how I can use it to help others.

The Price is Wrong: The Long-Term Economic Disadvantages of U.S. Public Policy on Crime

The United States is the world’s leading nation in incarceration, by a very large margin. With overpopulated prisons and jails,  the school-to-prison pipeline, and the rise in recidivism, this epidemic must have an effect on our economy. In my research, I would like to analyze the affects mass incarceration has on our economic development. I do this by collecting data on current prison/jail populations and costs, as well as looking at specific legislature that have had significant impacts on the efficiency of the prison system.

While it is important to point out the flaws in the prison system, it is also essential to search for solutions for these problems. I will do this by analyzing different country’s methods, legislature, and attitudes towards the prison system. Scandinavian nations see prisons as a way to help those who are incarcerated, and make them healthy, happy, and successful members of society. In the United States, we tend to mistreat those who are incarcerated and often times make their situations worse, especially for drug related crimes. This causes a cycle of recidivism that could hurt families, communities, and the nation as a whole.

I would like my research to be a starting point for me in my career. As an economics major, economic development is the ultimate goal. There are several ways to improve a nation, and I believe that fixing the prison system in the U.S. could create incredible benefits.