Voting to Build Prisons: Exploring Support for Prison Construction Bond Referenda

During the period of prison expansion from the late 1970s to the 1990s, public opinion generally supported stricter criminal justice measures. This support did not necessarily extend to building correctional facilities, however, encouraging some states to pursue cost-saving and privatization strategies. This paper explores the extent to which voters supported prison construction bond referenda, compared to other kinds of referenda. Evidence from fixed-effects models suggests that voters were less likely to support prison construction and that voter support for prison construction is linked with race. These results demonstrate the direct and sometimes contradictory ways that public opinion influences the criminal justice system.

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Chris Chaky
Ph.D. Candidate in Government

I am a PhD Candidate in Government at Harvard University, where I study American politics. My main research interests are public health, criminal justice, public opinion, and urban and local politics.