You’re more likely to go to jail if you live in a rural community.
For decades, your odds of getting locked in jail in cities greatly exceeded your odds of getting jailed in rural areas. About fifteen years ago, however, those rates equalized. And today, people in rural counties are more than twice as likely to go to jail as people in urban areas. And the gap continues to grow. Jail populations have dropped 18 percent in urban areas since 2013 but have climbed 27 percent in rural areas, with suburban jail populations remaining about the same.
What’s this about? One factor is the shift in the location of crime. While crime rates overall have declined in the United States, especially in cities, violent crime rates have risen in many rural communities. According to Alan Greenblatt in Governing, the rural crime rate exceeded the national average in 2016 for the first time in a decade. Job losses and opioids were among the culprits.
Still, we can’t simply pin the rise in jailing in rural areas to the opioid epidemic. Although rural counties saw higher age-adjusted rates of drug overdose deaths between 2007–2015, the trend reversed itself in 2016.
There are two additional factors, however, that help to explain this shifting geography of incarceration from urban to rural: first, the relative dysfunction of rural justice systems; and second, a local jail building boom in fiscally strapped rural communities fueled by overflowing state prisons and the rising demand to confine undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation.Read Debby’s Full Article at Nonprofit Quarterly