Half of US adults have an immediate family member who has been in jail or prison, a report released Thursday said.
The group FWD.us released the report outlining the results of a wide-ranging survey taken earlier this year, which showed further that one in seven people have an immediate family member who has spent a full year or longer in prison and one in 34 have an immediate family member who has spent 10 years or longer in prison. The report defined immediate family as a parent, child, sibling, current romantic partner or someone else with whom respondent had a child.
The group that released the report is supportive of criminal justice reform efforts around the country and counts billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates among its founders.
Zoë Towns, the group’s senior criminal justice reform director, told CNN after the release of the report that she hoped it would be a “wake up call” as some politicians have begun to rethink policies that led the US to becoming the world’s biggest jailer.
“We’ve gotten to the point that half of our families are being undermined,” Towns said.
Race and income affected results considerably. Black adults were most likely to say they have had an immediate family member to have ever spent a day in jail – at 63% of black respondents compared to 48% of Latino and 42% of white respondents. The same trend held for longer prison times, with 31% of black respondents saying someone had spent more than a year incarcerated compared to 17% of Latinos and 10% of whites.
Likewise when divided by income, the lower an income bracket, the more likely a respondent was to say an immediate family member had been in jail or prison. About half of respondents with household incomes below $50,000 said an immediate family member had been jailed, while about a third of respondents above $75,000 a year said a family member had been jailed.
However, income seemed to be less of a factor when intertwined with race for black respondents.
“This difference is smaller for black people, who experience family incarceration at higher rates than white people regardless of their socioeconomic status,” the report said.