The latest US jobs report showed that the American economy gained 157,000 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate inched down to 3.9 per cent. Meanwhile, the quarterly economic reportshowed the economy growing at 4.1 per cent, the highest quarterly growth rate since 2014.
However, the labour force participation rate (the share of working-age people who are either employed or looking for work) remains low — only Italy has a lower labour force participation rate among prime working-age men than the United States.
Increasing labour force participation is key to sustaining economic growth. One of the ways the US government could do that is by rethinking its approach to the opioid crisis, which is keeping people away from work.
What is needed is a shift away from an attitude of punishment to an attitude of rehabilitation in our criminal justice system.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate and largest prison population in the world. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, roughly 2.4 million people are incarcerated in the US, with 1.36 million in state prisons, 720,000 in local jails, and 210,000 in federal prisons.
While there are many factors that contribute to these abnormally high numbers, from overcriminalization to long prison sentences, one factor driving such high incarceration rates is recidivism, namely ex-cons returning to prison after committing crimes. In the United States, 76.6 per cent of released prisoners were rearrested within five years.