An expansion in state and federal prison popoulations in recent decades means that prisons now may be found in 31 percent of the nation’s counties, says the Urban Institute. Only 13 percent of counties had prisons in 1979.
In a report issued today, the Washington, D.C.-based institute said that Florida had the highest level of prison dispersion. Fifty two of the state’s 67 counties had at least one prison by 2000. California was a distant second in that category, with 59 percent of its counties housing a prison.
The institute said that Concho County, Tex., with 33 percent of its residents in prison, was the nation’s county with the largest share of residents behind bars. The most populous county with more than 10 percent of residents incarcerated was Kings County, Ca.
Jeremy Travis of the institute’s Justice Policy Center said with co-author Sarah Lawrence that, “Prisons built in communities far away from prisoners’ homes make visitation more difficult. But the location of prisons can affect the distribution of political power, the allocation of governmental resources, and the economies of the communities in which the new institutions are built and those from which the prisoners are drawn.
“Every dollar transferred to a ‘prison community’ is a dollar that is not given to the home community of a prisoner, which is often among the country’s most disadvantaged urban areas.”
The report is called “The New Landscape of Imprisonment: Mapping America’s Prison Expansion.”