A two-decade boom of prison building has put so many facilities in small, rural counties that inmates now make up a significant portion of some of those areas’ populations and are skewing decisions on state and local aid and other matters determined by census counts, reports the Washington Post. “The New Landscape of Imprisonment,” a report from the Urban Institute described yesterday in Crime & Justice News, examines 10 states that built the most prisons from 1979 to 2000.
Because the census counts people where they live, small counties with large prisons appear to be much more populous than they actually are, while some urban areas show up as being slightly smaller, creating problems in matters as diverse as political representation to state and federal funding, said Jeremy Travis, co-author of the report and an Urban Institute senior fellow. “We’ve created a vast network of prisons around the country that we didn’t have 20 years before, and this infrastructure will be very difficult to dismantle,” he said.
“There is a growing trend in rural areas to pursue prisons and jails as a tool for economic development,” said Joe Weedon of the American Correctional Association.