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Big House on the PrairieRise of the Rural Ghetto and Prison Proliferation$
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John M. Eason

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226410203

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226410487.001.0001

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Introduction: The Causes and Consequences of the Prison Boom

Introduction: The Causes and Consequences of the Prison Boom

(p.1) One Introduction: The Causes and Consequences of the Prison Boom
Big House on the Prairie

John M. Eason

University of Chicago Press

This chapter introduces the concept of the prison town—a nonmetropolitan municipality that has secured and constructed a prison for a federal, state, or private operator—as a strategic site to investigate the intersection of race, spatial disadvantage, and the expansion of the criminal justice system. Forty years ago, there were 511 prison facilities in the United States. Since then we have embarked on an unparalleled expansion, constructing 1,152 new facilities. This dramatic growth in prison building is known as the prison boom. Because prison building is often portrayed as a dichotomous decision for communities by describing the process that culminated in the placement of the Forrest City Federal Correctional Facility (FCFCF), I argue that we can begin to understand the multiple social, political, and economic shifts that drove the United States to triple prison construction in just over thirty years. Forrest City’s campaign to win a prison helps explain how rural communities get from NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) to PIMBY (Please in My Backyard).

Keywords:   prison town, NIMBY, PIMBY, prison industrial complex, prison boom

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