Uncategorized

On the use of prisons as political leverage

For years it’s been a bit of political common wisdom that prisons can serve as a tool for providing political assistance (or punishment) to politicians who represent struggling communities. You know how this goes: in hard hit, high unemployment areas, prisons are sold as “economic development” and the politicians who help get new ones located in their districts (or preserve old ones) frequently receive credit for helping to bring (or save) jobs.

In the current budget battle, it appears that the future of Bladen Correctional Center – a prison in the district of one of the five House Democrats who supported the Republican budget, Rep. William Brisson – has become a political football.

Here’s something to consider in the days ahead as the future of this and other such facilities is decided: the benefits to a community of having a prison may well be mostly illusory.

While there’s no doubt that having a prison around does bring at least some economic activity with it, the notion that it will bring lots of decently-paid, publicly-employed residents is probably inaccurate in most places.

This morning, I received a call from a knowledgeable resident of  a county that hosts a large prison in the southern part of the state. He reported that the vast majority of the prison employees — especially those with any kind of of higher-paying management responsibility — tend to commute from somewhat healthier nearby areas like Fayetteville and Moore County.  

My correspondent confirmed, however, that the prison did bring some extra activity to his town — namely, some of the friends and “business associates” of many of the prisoners had relocated to his town.

In this person’s view, maybe the biggest carrot that could be offered to Rep. Brisson and other lawmakers like him would be to promise to close their local prisons, not keep them open.

Check Also

BREAKING: New analysis shows GOP tax plan would be “devastating” to North Carolina nonprofits

This is usually the time of year during ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

The controversy over “Silent Sam,” the Confederate monument on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, has been ra [...]

North Carolina tries to mine its swine and deal with a poop problem that keeps piling up A blanket o [...]

This story is part of "Peak Pig," an examination of the hog industry co-published with Env [...]

Few issues in the North Carolina’s contentious policy wars have been more consistently front and cen [...]

Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a jaw-dropping civil rights lawsuit again [...]

Will Burr and Tillis really vote for this? For much of the 20th Century, one of the labels that Amer [...]

President Trump and Congressional Republicans aim to rebrand enormous tax cuts for the wealthiest ho [...]

20—number of years since a bipartisan coalition in Congress passed the Children’s Health Insurance P [...]

Spotlight on Journalism

We invite you to join a special celebration of investigative journalism! The evening will feature Mike Rezendes, a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe Spotlight Team known for their coverage of the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Tickets available NOW!

Spotlight On Journalism

This event will benefit NC Policy Watch, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. Sponsorship opportunities available now!

Featured | Special Projects

NC Budget 2017
The maze of the NC Budget is complex. Follow the stories to follow the money.
Read more


NC Redistricting 2017
New map, new districts, new lawmakers. Here’s what you need to know about gerrymandering in NC.
Read more