Inflation is sweeping the globe after the recent events that involved specific countries and regions, and the international community as a whole. Inflation is mainly a monetary problem, however, economic and social repercussions of inflation affect society at all levels, and governments around the world can play their role to ease the effects of rising prices on families and businesses. Social programs and benefits can supplement monetary policy measures, and support households’ incomes. Such support is particularly essential for vulnerable and impoverished people. The reason why tackling the effects of inflation on the real economy for the poor, and people at risk is of utmost importance is quite intuitive. Low-income households receive more pressure than others from a rise in food and energy prices, because of their relative purchasing power. Many research studies confirm that inflation has a higher impact on the poor and some highlight a positive relationship between rising inflation and poverty.
The latest data about inflation in North America reveal a mixed landscape. In the US and Mexico, data are almost reassuring. The US experienced a reduction in the inflation rate in October, but the level remains high around 7.7%, driven by high energy and food prices. Likewise, Mexico’s inflation rate, while still at 7.8%, decreased from the previous month. Canada has the lowest annual inflation rate of the region in October 2022 which was 6.9%, however, it was unchanged from previous months. In order to tackle the rising level of inflation all North American countries have adopted relief packages. President Biden enacted the Inflation Reduction Act, to reduce the cost of healthcare and drug prescription, support the energy transition, and promote incentives to go green. The new package will enable US families to save thousands of dollars. However, an important subset of the population was left out by the Act, specifically children and their caregivers, with no provisions for economic, social, and psychological support to children caregivers. The Canadian government adopted three main measures to mitigate the effects of inflation on Canadian citizens.
First, the credit to offset payments on goods and services (GSTC) has been doubled. Second, benefits for dental care for children under twelve have been introduced. Third, Canada Housing Benefits has been adopted to help citizens to pay for rent. All measures are aimed at low- and middle-income households that meet a certain minimum income. The relief package expressly provides cash benefits for children and their families. In Mexico, the government signed an agreement with private companies to reduce the costs of some basic food through the easement of the requirements for production, import, and export. It also provided fuel benefits to reduce the pressure of rising prices on consumers. In the region, only Canada included in its relief measures subsidies for children and caregivers. Leaving behind children is even more concerning when it comes to poor families. Here, the analysis focuses on a particular set of households at risk that is often ignored by public opinion and public policy, namely the families of incarcerated people. Incarceration is associated with economic hardship, and families with incarcerated male parents are more prone to poverty and poor psychological and social outcomes. They are more exposed to instability and the costs of living meet with the costs of supporting a family member in prison.
Leaving aside this portion of the population, which is not included in any relief measure in North America, from policies aimed at reducing the effects of inflation, means leaving aside thousands of families and children. In recent years, the connection between the criminal justice system and social policy has gained momentum. The institutions of civil society can contribute to raising the effectiveness of the criminal system and the prevention of crime. Community-oriented policies have found application in many countries and criminal justice policies are presented more and more as social policies. There are many actors involved in such a system, from education institutions to youth care, and welfare services. The shift from crime as a judicial problem to safety as a social theme has allowed looking at the issue in a more integrated and holistic manner. Subsidies and support programs need to explicitly address families of detainees and children with incarcerated parents. High levels of inflation only exacerbated their already precarious conditions. Moreover, social programs and support can reduce the risk of reiterating crime and involvement in illicit activities also for children and teenagers, and have spill-over effects on society as a whole and its sustainable development.