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When a prison comes to town: Siting, location, and perceived impacts of correctional facilities in the Midwest

Matthew R Engel, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In the late twentieth century, the corrections sector in the United States massively increased in size and scope. This expansion was addressed in a geographical context, with a detailed description of which areas of the United States received the brunt of this expansion, and how patterns of this increase have changed over recent decades. Although metropolitan counties continue to have prisons sited in them, nonmetropolitan counties received a disproportionately large share of prisons in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Of those nonmetropolitan counties, ones with 2,500 to 19,999 urban residents had the greatest number of prisons sited in them. Residents of six Midwestern communities with prisons were surveyed to gain an understanding of what it means for citizens to have a correctional facility as a neighbor. To gauge unfulfilled expectations, surveys were also conducted in two communities that came close to acquiring a prison but failed to do so. The surveys demonstrate that prisons were not necessarily undesired facilities that aroused a typical NIMBY response, at least in these study areas. Most of the people surveyed were in favor of the facility coming to their community. Regarding perception of results, the respondents were generally disappointed the local prison did not lead to an economic boon. However, the majority of respondents did not feel a great degree of discomfort with the nearby prison. For willing communities, the guaranteed job base and anticipated multiplier effect have shifted these facilities from something to be fought to a desired commodity.

Subject Area

Geography|Criminology|Urban planning|Area planning & development

Recommended Citation

Engel, Matthew R, "When a prison comes to town: Siting, location, and perceived impacts of correctional facilities in the Midwest" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3275081.