2007 Small Grants Program: Incarceration, Criminal Justice Policy and Poverty


April 4, 2008
9:00 am – 3:30 pm
Room 1210, Weill Hall


Since the mid 1970s, the number of inmates in state and federal prisons in the United States has dramatically increased, both in absolute terms and relative to the population.  In 1977, roughly 280,000 persons were incarcerated in state or federal prisons on any given day.  By 2004, this figure had increased to nearly 1.5 million.  Relative to the population, the number incarcerated per 100,000 residents increased from 129 to 486 over this period.  This large increase followed nearly a half-century of relatively low (approximately 105 per 100,000) and stable prison incarceration rates. These figures do not include those in jails or on probation or parole, who also face issues similar to those in state and federal prisons.

While changes in aggregate incarceration rates show that recent increases represent a clear departure from the past, these aggregate figures mask the extreme concentration of the incidence of incarceration among poor, low-educated, and predominantly minority men.  While incarceration rates have increased for all groups, the increases have been greatest for African-American and Hispanic males with the lowest levels of education.  By the end of the century, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that the lifetime likelihood of going to prison stands at nearly one-third for black men and fifteen percent for Hispanic men and about six percent for white men.

The focus of this year’s National Poverty Center’s small grant competition was on the effects of this increase in incarceration and the effects of criminal justice policies more generally on poverty broadly defined. 


Funded Research

Employment Discontinuities and Wage Declines: Race Differences in the Cumulative Effects of Incarceration. Christopher Lyons, University of New Mexico, and Becky Pettit, University of Washington.

The Effects of Incarceration on Employment in Young Adulthood. Gary Sweeten, Arizona State University, and Robert Apel, University at Albany.

The Effect of Hurricane Katrina on Prisoner Reentry in Louisiana. David Kirk, University of Maryland.

Intergenerational Risks of Criminal Involvement. Rucker Johnson, University of California, Berkeley.


Funds for this competition are provided by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Learn about past NPC small grants.