“Spending time in prison leads to increased criminal earnings,” Ohio University sociologist Donald Hutcherson tells NPR. “On average, a person can make roughly $11,000 more [illegally] from spending time in prison versus a person who does not spend time in prison.” The conclusion comes from studying the federal National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which conducts detailed confidential interviews, and then repeats those interviews with the same people year after year.
Included are questions about how much money individuals make legally and illegally. Because the study looks at averages, Hutcherson isn’t saying that all criminals come out of prison primed to become bigger criminals. Lots come out determined to lead law-abiding lives. Still, he says, “When you leave prison, who are you going to hang out with? You’re not going to all of a sudden join the chess club.”