More people in the U.S. are being arrested and incarcerated even though crime has dropped, meaning that the consequences of these policies being felt most by low-income communities, says the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group the Justice Policy Institute (JPI). In a report, “Money Well Spent: How positive social investments will reduce incarceration rates, improve public safety, and promote the well-being of communities,” the institute examines the relationship between poverty and involvement in the justice system.
Using Washington, D.C., as a case study, the report focuses on the nexus of public safety and poverty. Between 2005 and 2009 state spending on corrections grew faster than any other category, including education, Medicaid, and public assistance such as TANF. The institute says police should focus their efforts on the most serious offenses rather than “quality of life offenses that are often directed at low-income communities and people who are homeless.” The institute also advocates addressing “practices that create racial and income disparities in arrest and incarceration.”