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The $3.4 Trillion Mistake: The Cost of Mass Incarceration and Criminalization

Resource type: Research Report

Communities United, Make the Road New York and Padres & Jóvenes Unidos |

This report details how criminal justice policies in the United States resulted in expenditures of $3.4 trillion over the last three decades that the authors say could have been better spent addressing the root causes of crime and to meet critical community needs.

Researchers found that from 1982 to 2012, U.S. spending on the justice system increased 229 percent, from $90 billion annually to nearly $297 billion. Cumulatively, over that 30-year period, the U.S. spent $3.4 trillion more on the justice system than it would have if spending had remained steady since 1982. The report also details how these resources could have instead been used to invest in living-wage jobs, education, housing, healthcare, community wraparound supports and clean, renewable energy sources.

Make the Road New York is an Atlantic grantee. Communities United and Padres & Jóvenes Unidos (via Communities for Just Schools Fund) are Atlantic grantees.