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The Unintended Consequences of Prison Litigation, 1980–1991

The Unintended Consequences of Prison Litigation, 1980–1991

(p.90) Chapter Four The Unintended Consequences of Prison Litigation, 1980–1991
Building the Prison State
Heather Schoenfeld
University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes Florida state officials’ compliance with the court order to reduce prison overcrowding. Civil Rights lawyers had high hopes that prison conditions litigation would reduce Florida’s reliance on imprisonment. Initially legislators opposed building new prisons and passed sentencing guidelines meant to slow the growth of prison admissions. This chapter answers why, less than ten years later, Florida officials decided to comply with the court order by building more prisons, rather than finding alternatives to incarceration. It argues that when prison admissions began to soar because of the War on Drugs, Republican Governor Bob Martinez used the threat of releasing inmates early to overcome legislators’ reservations about high prison costs, appropriate prison sites, and the limits of prison rehabilitation. The chapter reconsiders the effect of national crime control politics, crime, and punitive public opinion on state lawmakers’ decisions to expand prison capacity during the 1980s.

Keywords:   prison overcrowding, prison conditions litigation, crime, sentencing guidelines, rehabilitation, War on Drugs, Bob Graham, Bob Martinez, capacity

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