Statistics on prisoners do not allow us to determine how disproportionately low-income men are imprisoned, but data on imprisonment by race and ethnicity provide a stark picture of the extent of disparities. Since African American and Hispanic men are more likely to be low income, this perspective gives some sense of the impact of being low income on encounters with the most punitive part of the criminal justice system: incarceration (McDaniel et al. 2013). Data presented here show increasing life chances for young men in these groups to be imprisoned—differentials that continue earlier trends by race.
Imprisonment also affects whether these men are able to participate fully in civic life after returning to society. In addition, the highly variable state-disenfranchisement rates in the United States show how geography can shape the lives of low-income men in this domain. It also affects the communities in which the prisoners live and society at large. Men of color, men without high school degrees, and men living in states with strict felony disenfranchisement laws are most affected by the criminal justice system.