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Rural County Jails Are Now The Main Driver Of Mass Incarceration

Above photo: Inmates sit in the county jail on July 26, 2013, in Williston, North Dakota. The state has seen a rise in crime, automobile accidents and drug usage recently, due in part to the oil boom which has brought tens of thousands of jobs to the region, lowering state unemployment and bringing a surplus to the state budget. Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Discussing the new Vera Institute report, Stephen Janis and Taya Graham of Police Accountability Report also note the rural jail boom goes hand in hand with skyrocketing rural police budgets.

All across the United States, city and state governments have increasingly turned to fines and fees to make up for budget shortfalls. This has required a corresponding explosion in police department budgets, creating a perverse cycle where local governments must consistently expand policing in order to continue to pay for policing. Rural America has not escaped this trend, and a new Vera Institute report has found that small and rural counties are now the main drivers of growth in the prison industrial complex. According Vera’s research, the boom in county jails appears to be driven by an increased amount of people who are either held pretrial or warehoused for federal, state, or other municipal authorities.

Stephen Janis and Taya Graham of Police Accountability Report join Rattling the Bars to discuss these findings in light of their own reporting on rural policing. In a wide-ranging conversation, Stephen and Taya help connect the dots between the rural jail boom and the rural police boom, the opioid crisis, and the decades-long economic crisis in rural America.

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