Center for American Progress

RELEASE: America’s Broken Criminal Legal System Contributes to Wealth Inequality
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — A new report released today by the Center for American Progress highlights how mass incarceration and overcriminalization strip wealth from already economically marginalized families and widen the racial wealth gap.

Key findings in this report document a link between criminal justice interactions and household wealth:

  • Households with a currently or previously incarcerated family member have about 50 percent less wealth than households not affected by incarceration, on average.
  • Households with criminal legal interactions face more obstacles to saving and end up deeper in debt.
  • Households affected by incarceration have fewer chances for longer-term wealth building.

“America’s failed experiment with mass incarceration and overcriminalization has now bared long-term consequences detrimental to the economy as a whole, as it has become a significant driver of poverty and racial equality,” said Akua Amaning, Director of Criminal Justice Reform at CAP. “There is not just a single fix. In order to dramatically reduce the footprint of mass incarceration, begin to close America’s racial wealth gap and reform the nation’s broken criminal legal system, a comprehensive set of policy changes must be embraced by policymakers and actors in the criminal justice system.” 

Read the report:“America’s Broken Criminal Legal System Contributes to Wealth Inequality” by Christian E. Weller, Akua Amaning, and Rebecca Vallas

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Madia Coleman at mcoleman@americanprogress.org.

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