Economies of Incarceration

Economies of Incarceration, a radio program by Sylvia Ryerson

The number of people incarcerated in the state of Kentucky has increased by approximately 750% since 1974, growing from 3,000 to 22,500 inmates. As shocking as these numbers are, they reflect a nationwide phenomenon. The United States today has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with approximately 1 and one quarter million people behind bars today. Such staggering statistics have created what is often referred to as “the prison development boom.” Since the 1980s, as skyrocketing rates of incarceration have continued to fuel the demand for prison construction, it has become widely accepted knowledge that building prisons in economically depressed regions will help promote broad-scale economic growth. Many of these new prison sites are in rural communities. Approximately one quarter of all rural prison construction nation-wide has been concentrated in four regions: The West Texas Plains, the Mississippi delta, south central Georgia, and here in the southern coalfield region of Appalachia.

“And of course, with the incredible support of the Funding Exchange, we are now in the process of producing a six-part radio documentary series on prison expansion in Central Appalachia, building from this first piece. The new series will be complete by the end of September 2011.”

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