Justice Policy Institute
Many of those who have lost their jobs and homes because of the economic recession are ending up in jail. There's a strong link between poverty and incarceration in the United states.
The relationship between poverty and the justice system suggests that more and more people from poor and low-income communities are being arrested and jailed, even though nationwide, crime rates have fallen.
There is less focus on safety nets for the poor and more on policing and arrests. As prison populations have grown, so too have racial disparities in the justice system.
This is especially evident in arrest and incarceration patterns for drug offences. Without adequate funding for social services, it is less likely that people will be able to succeed and avoid contact with the justice system.
Despite comparable usage of illicit drugs, in 2008, African Americans, who make up 12.2 percent of the general population, comprised 44 percent of those incarcerated for drug offences, according to the report.
Researchers say that disproportionate enforcement of drug laws in black communities destabilises families and communities and decreases the likelihood of positive outcomes for children and other family members left behind.
Due to the prolonged economic meltdown, many states are now making drastic cuts in funding for social services - such as health, education, and public housing - but not on policing and prison improvement and expansion.
There are nearly two million people behind bars in the U.S., most of them poor whites and people of colour, making America the number one country in the world in terms of the imprisonment rate.