A Prison in Summerland, BC? No: Oliver.

Correctional facility approved for Oliver, BC

Studies: Rural Prisons

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A note to the reader: Some have tried to discount the validity of the studies presented due to the fact they are not Canadian focussed. Brent Merchant, (Assistant Deputy Minister BC Corrections, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General) the representative from the government at the Summerland town meeting, was one such person.

However numerous studies on Correctional Services Canada’s own site use data from all over the world, e.g.; a study on prisoner suicide takes data from research in Scotland, Britain, Wales and the USA. Research on inmate substance abuse uses data from studies in Amsterdam as well as the USA. The BC Corrections site itself also uses data from other countries; e.g.; suicide prevention quotes American, British, and Australian studies in their research.

In researching prison siting in small rural communities, it didn’t matter whether it was in Toowoomba, Australia, New York State, California, or the UK; the process was similar as was the outcome: The impact of the prison on local rural economies was not only negligible but in numerous cases, was detrimental both from a social and economical standpoint.

Studies on the economic impact of prison siting in small rural communities:

Big Prison, Small Towns: Prison Economics in Rural America. Ryan S. King, Research Associate, The Sentencing Project; Marc Mauer, Assistant Director, The Sentencing Project; and Tracy Huling, an independent consultant whose current work focuses on criminal justice and rural development.

Results of Study: Assessing Prison Impact: This study is the first of its kind to use statistical controls to measure the effect of a prison on the local economy, paying particular attention not simply to job accumulation, but to identifying how the prison positions are filled.

There are a number of possible factors that explain why prisons provide few economic benefits to local communities:

  • Employees not living in the host county.
  • Residents ineligible for employment due to union requirements or lack of necessary skills.
  • Residents unable to compete for employment in local facility due to hiring requirements, department standards for transfer eligibility, and the popularity of working in upstate facilities.
  • Local businesses and infrastructure unable to provide prison services necessary to keep statemoney in the locality.
  • Multiplier effect not present, as prisons fail to generate linkages into the local economy. Read full study…

The Prison Industry: Carceral Expansion and Employment in U.S. Counties. Gregory Hooks, WSU Clayton Mosher, WSU, Thomas Rotolo, WSU Linda Lobao, OSU

Results of Study: We find no evidence that prison expansion has stimulated economic growth. In fact, we provide evidence that prison construction has impeded economic growth in rural counties that have been growing at a slow pace. Conclusion. Despite sharp ideological and intellectual differences, the critics and the advocates of the prison construction boom share the assumption that prisons can contribute to local growth, especially in hard-pressed local areas. This belief flies in the face of mounting evidence that state and local initiatives rarely have a significant impact on growth; this belief is also contradicted by our analyses. Read full study…

The Role of Prisons In Rural Development: Do They Contribute to Local Economies? by Deborah M. Tootle, Ph.D, University of Georgia.

Synopsis Excerpt: Distressed rural communities turn to prisons as a rural development strategy when their community is offered incentives in the way of tax abatements and infrastructure development. As financially strapped local governments are finding it difficult to fund local infrastructure, rural stakeholders question the role prisons play in stimulating local economic development. Earlier studies assumed or projected economic development but more recent work indicates prisons generally appear to have a negligible, or even negative, impact on economic development in rural communities. Read full study

Economic Impact of Prisons in Rural Areas (USA). Dexter Whitfield,  Adjunct Associate Professor, Australian Institute for Social Research, University of Adelaide

Synopsis Excerpt: The building of prisons in U.S. rural towns was claimed to provide a “significant economic boost” because they were a “recession-proof form of economic development.” … with no negative effects on property values, public safety or the quality of life. One study concluded that there was a gap between the perception of the economic benefits and reality.  Studies in Wisconsin, Minnesota, California and Colorado revealed that a significant percentage of prison staff commute to work and do not reside in the prison town or county thus reducing their impact on the local economy… The location of prisons in rural areas also led to recruitment problems, environmental issues caused by pressure on water and wastewater infrastructure and imposed long commuting journeys for minority staff… The economic benefits of rural prisons were further reduced by towns and counties having to finance infrastructure improvements, particularly, water and wastewater treatment plants. Read full study...

Development of Last Resort: The Impact of New State Prisons on Small Town Economies in the U.S. By Terry L. Besser Ph.D and Margaret M. Hanson, Iowa State University

Synopsis Excerpt: Analysis shows that when 1990 economic and demographic factors and region are controlled, new state prison towns experienced less growth than non-prison towns except that prison towns had a greater increase in unemployment, poverty, and percent of minorities. The assumption that prisons represent a solution to distressed small town economies and a boost for community development should be reexamined by community leaders. Read full study…

Written by summerlandbc

March 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm

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