Unemployment, Incarceration, and the Career Counselor.

In a capitalist society there is collateral damage. This takes the form of a ‘normal’ level of unemployment, a stratified society, and least of all a legal system which quickly takes care of impediments to the active and speedy movement of trade and services.

From 2000 to 2009[1] the total number of male inmates held in custody increased by 18 %.  Clearly there is some buy-in to the idea that crime does pay.


Apart from the costs to maintain this population there is also the question of the large percentage of black males and minorities behind bars. During the same period the incarcerated Black male population decreased from 44.6% to 40.1% of the Total Incarcerated Male population.  While this decrease is an improvement, the incredulous part is that Blacks only make up 12% of the total US population.[2]

I would be the first to admit that finding a solution to this problem is not easy, but the faster the problem gets fixed the better.

The first piece of the puzzle may lie in the disparity of the unemployment rates.[3] The following chart shows that the average annual unemployment rates over the same period was higher for blacks than whites by an additional 4.1% to 7.2%.

But this is not an issue solely dealing with poverty, discrimination, nor better education opportunities.  If one considers the following Age Group breakdown for the 2009 Incarcerated male population, an interesting detail emerges. [4]

The main differences stem in the 20-34 age group. If the White percentages are used as a benchmark, it is clear that in the years after the 30-34 group, a point of inflexion occurs in both the Black male, and Hispanic male populations when the percentages fall below the comparative groupings in the White male incarcerated population. The following chart demonstrates the point a little clearer.

The peaks in both the Black and Hispanic data series indicate that a good first step may lie in addressing the problems that young men in general encounter at that age leading into their early twenties, when they are faced with problems of finding jobs, starting families, and choosing careers.  Cue the Career Counselor. A large part of this fix should probably take place in High School, where students are streamed into programs which fit their long term goals, which offers an escape from the gripping nihilism veiled in criminal activity, and which offers realistic opportunities for success.

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