Study: Poverty, jail time linked

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Sentinel & Enterprise on 12/26/2017 by Sam Cote

Boston University Statehouse Program

BOSTON — Consider this: You are fined as punishment for some offense. You can’t pay this fine and wind up in jail. Upon release you still don’t have the money to pay the fine or the means to avoid the behavior you were fined for in the first place. You are penalized again, but this time you face twice the fine and double the jail time.

Cycles like these are an unfortunate reality for many in Massachusetts, according to Lois Ahrens, the founder of The Real Cost of Prisons Project.

“You can’t jail people for being poor, but that is what’s happened,” she said.

The U.S. locks up more people per capita than any other nation, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. Despite Massachusetts’ progressive reputation, the Commonwealth is no exception.

The Bay State locks up a disproportionate number of residents from smaller, more disadvantaged cities and town, according to research by Jessica Simes, an assistant professor of sociology at Boston University.

These results are consistent with existing research that shows locations with greater populations of minorities and economically disadvantaged households have higher prison admission rates.