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Articles by Tim Marema

The Politics of Prisons: Location Affects Legislators’ Voting on Criminal Reform

by Tim Marema, Daily Yonder

Legislators representing rural areas with prisons are less likely to support lighter sentencing and other criminal reforms. A new study argues that's because these rural legislators think they have an economic interest in keeping the prison business booming.

The “growth industry” of rural prisons is one reason some rural state lawmakers are resisting efforts to reform sentencing guidelines and make other changes in the nation’s penal system, a study says.

While many states are exploring ways to reduce their prison populations because of budget problems and questions about the effectiveness of sentencing, rural legislators representing districts that contain prisons are more likely to oppose such changes, according to Rebecca U. Thorpe.

Thorpe is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Washington. Her study on the influence of prisons on rural legislators’ criminal-reform votes was published in the journal Perspectives on Politics.

Because prison development has been a steady economic-development strategy for rural areas for the past generation, we wanted to learn more about Thorpe’s study. She said the findings varied by degree across her study area of Washington state, New York, and California. But the general trend appeared everywhere: Legislators whose districts ...