In South Mountain, a district in south Phoenix, more than 3,800 residents are displaced, serving time in prison or the county jail, reports the Wall Street Journal. For every 100 adults, 6.1 are behind bars. That’s more than five times the national average of 1.09 per 100, according to a report by the Pew Center, a nonpartisan research group. Arizona has the fastest-growing prison population of the Western states, having increased 5.3 percent last year to more than 38,000.
Behind those figures are many hidden, related costs — financial burdens that communities are left to manage. For every person who goes to jail, businesses lose either a potential employee or customer. Inmates’ children often depend on extended families, rather than a parent, to raise them. With only so many government resources to go around, churches, volunteer programs, and other groups must often step in to help. Prison costs associated with one nine-block area in South Mountain, amount to roughly $11 million annually, says the Justice Mapping Center, a New York organization that examines crime patterns. The state spends more than half that amount — an additional $6.5 million — on social programs for the residents who remain.