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Prisons as Panacea or Pariah? The Countervailing Consequences of the Prison Boom on the Political Economy of Rural Towns

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  • John M. Eason

    () (Department of Sociology, Texas A&M University, 311 Academic Building, College Station, TX 77843, USA)

Abstract

The nascent literature on prison proliferation in the United States typically reveals negative impacts for communities of color. Given that Southern rural communities were the most likely to build during the prison boom (1970–2010), however, a more nuanced understanding of prison impact is warranted. Using a dataset matching and geocoding all 1663 U.S. prisons with their Census-appointed place, this study explores the countervailing consequences of the prison boom on rural towns across multiple periods. For example, locales that adopted prisons at earlier stages of the prison boom era received a short-term boom compared to those that did not, but these effects were not lasting. Furthermore, later in the boom, prison-building protected towns against additional economic decline. Thus, neither entirely pariah nor panacea, the prison functions as a state-sponsored public works program for disadvantaged rural communities but also supports perverse economic incentives for prison proliferation. Methodological, substantive, theoretical, and policy implications regarding the intersection of race and punishment are explored.

Suggested Citation

  • John M. Eason, 2017. "Prisons as Panacea or Pariah? The Countervailing Consequences of the Prison Boom on the Political Economy of Rural Towns," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(1), pages 1-23, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jscscx:v:6:y:2017:i:1:p:7-:d:87602
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Daniel Lichter & Domenico Parisi & Steven Grice & Michael Taquino, 2007. "National estimates of racial segregation in rural and small-town America," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 44(3), pages 563-581, August.
    2. Christopher Wildeman, 2009. "Parental imprisonment, the prison boom, and the concentration of childhood disadvantage," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 46(2), pages 265-280, May.
    3. Gregory Hooks & Clayton Mosher & Shaun Genter & Thomas Rotolo & Linda Lobao, 2010. "Revisiting the Impact of Prison Building on Job Growth: Education, Incarceration, and County‐Level Employment, 1976–2004," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 91(1), pages 228-244, March.
    4. Amy K. Glasmeier & Tracey Farrigan, 2007. "The Economic Impacts of the Prison Development Boom on Persistently Poor Rural Places," International Regional Science Review, , vol. 30(3), pages 274-299, July.
    5. Gregory Hooks & Clayton Mosher & Thomas Rotolo & Linda Lobao, 2004. "The Prison Industry: Carceral Expansion and Employment in U.S. Counties, 1969–1994," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 85(1), pages 37-57, March.
    6. Daniel T. Lichter & Domenico Parisi & Michael C. Taquino & Brian Beaulieu, 2007. "Race and the micro-scale spatial concentration of poverty," Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Cambridge Political Economy Society, vol. 1(1), pages 51-67.
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