Half of US Adults Had Family Member in Prison

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Half of all U.S. adults have an immediate family member who has been incarcerated, says a new study. That’s about 113 million people who have a close family member who has spent time behind bars, reports USA Today. The study by FWD.us, an organization that focuses on immigration and criminal justice reforms, was done in partnership with Cornell University. The conclusions were drawn from a survey of more than 4,000 people representative of the U.S. population. The study was issued at a time when Congress has a sentencing reform bill on its plate, The First Step Act. The measure includes giving federal judges more of a say in sentencing, allows offenders to be incarcerated closer to their families and would allow inmates in some drug cases the chance to petition for lighter sentences.

The legislation passed the House but is stalled in the Senate. A growing number of senators have been pushing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the measure to a vote.  “There’s support on both sides of the aisle. It just doesn’t seem like this should be that difficult,” said Kevin Ring, president of FAMM, a nonprofit advocating sentencing reforms. He said changes in the measure are “modest” in the grand scheme of things but, like the name suggests, are a good first step. The study found that one in seven people have an immediate family member who has spent at least a year behind bars, and another one in 34 people have a loved one who has spent more than 10 years or longer in prison. Six of 10 African Americans and Native Americans had an immediate family member who has spent time behind bars.  One aim of the report is to show the deep impact of incarceration and make it easier for those affected to talk about it.

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