The Economic Costs of Pretrial Detention

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"We measure the economic costs of the U.S. pretrial system using several complementary approaches and datasets. The pretrial system operates as one of the earliest points in the crim- inal justice system and typically represents an individual’s first opportunity to be incarcerated. We find that individuals lose almost $30,000 in present value terms when detained in jail while awaiting the resolution of their criminal cases. These adverse consequences are also present in aggregate data, with a 10 percentage point increase in county pretrial detention rates leading to an 1.05–1.41 percentage point increase in county poverty rates and a 1.15–2.06 percentage point decrease in county employment rates. Counties with high levels of pretrial detention also exhibit significantly lower levels of intergenerational mobility in later years, consistent with pretrial detention adversely impacting young children."

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