How ending crime in America might devastate the economy

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America’s prison system is “deeply implicated in all sorts of other aspects of ordinary political life.” That’s the message this month’s Econ Extra Credit documentary, “The Prison in Twelve Landscapes,” is meant to convey, according to filmmaker Brett Story. In conversation with David Brancaccio, Story reflects on how the prison economy has revived some parts of rural America, as well as how prisoners have become a valuable — if highly underpaid — part of the American labor force.

Hadar Aviram, a law professor and author of “Cheap on Crime: Recession-Era Politics and the Transformation of American Punishment,” said prisoners engage in many occupations while they’re serving time, often learning skills and developing strengths and perspectives of value to the labor market. Unfortunately, there’s still widespread discrimination by employers against people with criminal records, which makes it difficult…

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