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Poverty and Crime

Growing economic inequality in the United States has profound implications for understanding crime, criminal justice processing, and trends in mass incarceration. Although contemporary crime rates are at levels observed during the 1960s, punishment—through the use of incarceration—remains at historic highs. As the richest nation in the world, the United States incarcerates more people than any other country. According to the National Research Council, Americans represent less than 5% of the planet’s population, but U.S. inmates comprise nearly 25% of prisoners globally, and in 2014, more than 2.23 million Americans were behind bars, representing nearly 1% of the U.S. adult population.

The risk of incarceration is not distributed uniformly across the population. Men, non-Whites, high-school dropouts, and young adults have the highest risk of incarceration. As noted ...

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