Rural Americans 50% More Likely to Go to Prison Than Urban Counterparts

Sep 6, 2016

Analysis of the National Corrections Reporting Program by The New York Times and John Pfaff, Fordham University
Credit New York Times

People in rural areas are now 50 percent more likely to go to prison than people in urban areas, reports The New York Times.

That’s a major shift from a decade ago, when urban criminals received less mercy. But since them, a bipartisan campaign to reduce mass incarceration has led to an enormous decline in new prisoners from big cities. For example, since 2006 annual prison admissions dropped by almost 40 percent in Brooklyn and almost 70 percent in Los Angeles

But there has been no such push for clemency among the rural population. In fact, the heartland has gone the opposite direction. Plagued by a heroin epidemic, rural prisons have grown in population even as crime rates have dropped.

Why is this happening? According to a Times analysis, prosecutors and judges in low-population areas wield great power over who goes to prison and for how long. And many of them have no interest in reducing the prison population.