The New Landscape of Imprisonment

Research Report

The New Landscape of Imprisonment

Mapping America's Prison Expansion

Abstract

In recent decades, growth in the number of people in U.S. prisons has been the largest in history-the prison population increased by more than one million between 1980 and 2000. To accommodate this growth, corrections officials have pursued a variety of strategies, including greatly expanding the network of prisons. Despite this tremendous growth, the prison construction boom has received relatively little attention. This report contributes to the limited knowledge base by developing an empirical understanding of the geographic locations of prison facilities-and therefore prisoners-following this record-level expansion over the past two decades. Prison expansion is examined from national, state, and county-level perspectives, and in terms of the extent to which prisons were located in "metro" counties or "non-metro" counties. This report focuses on 10 states that experienced the largest growth in the number of prisons during the 1980s and 1990s. Several themes emerge from the analyses presented in this report. First is the pervasiveness of prison growth. A second theme to emerge is that in a select number of smaller communities, prison expansion has significantly impacted the total population. A third theme of this report is the mismatch between the places prisoners consider home and the places prisoners serve their time. [View corresponding press release.]

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