The availability of state funds goes a long way toward explaining the nation’s prison building boom in the last three decades, says William Spelman, an urban policy specialist at the University of Texas. Examining many variables associated with prison construction, Spelman concludes that if crime rates begin to rise again, “Prison officials will seek, and legislatures will authorize, yet more prisons to be constructed and filled.” The only way to reverse a buildup, he says, would be a “dramatic improvement in the infrastructure for delivery of alternative sanctions, combined with substantial federal funding for these alternatives.”
Spelman wrote in the new issue of the journal “Criminology and Public Policy.” In the same issue, political scientist Marie Gottschalk of the University of Pennsylvania says Spelman’s analysis “calls into question the popular contention among many antiprison activitists and other penal reformers that the U.S. prison boom is bound to end soon because states just cannot afford it anymore.” The journal is edited at Florida State University’s Center for Criminology & Public Policy Research. The contents are available by subscription or to members of the American Society of Criminology. Journalists may get access by visiting http://www.criminologycenter.fsu.edu/p/cpp-media.php and using user name reporter and password policy.