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John Eason, University of Wisconsin

Punishment is Purple: The Political Economy of Prison Building
When Nov 01, 2021
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
Where HYBRID - IN Person and online
Contact Name
Contact Phone 301-405-6403
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About the Presentation

The United States is unique among rich countries in the world in its level of contemporary mass incarceration, a massive social change that has reshaped the nature of inequality and social mobility. We have more than tripled the number of prison facilities since 1970. Despite employing nearly 450,000 corrections officers, occupying a land mass of roughly 600 square miles, and costing conservatively $30 billion to build, this massive public works project has transformed the American countryside virtually unnoticed, with nearly 70 percent of U.S. facilities being built in rural communities. We suggest that mass incarceration—the annual rate of more than 2 million being locked up—was not possible without the prison boom—the increase from roughly 500 to nearly 1700 carceral facilities. We explore the political, social, and economic influences of prison building across states, regions, and cities/towns. Using multilevel modeling, we find that racial and economic disadvantage predicts prison building in towns across different periods of the prison boom. We also find that party affiliation of state legislatures predicts prison building across different periods of the prison boom. While others find a link between Republican Party strength in state legislatures and mass incarceration, our findings suggest that prison building, like other types of punishment, result from bipartisan political support for the state’s ability to punish.

About the Speaker

John Major Eason is a Senior Fellow/Equity Scholar at the Urban Institute and Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also the author of Big House on the Prairie: Rise of the Rural Ghetto and Prison Proliferation. He is Founder and Director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Justice Lab and also a founding member of the UW pancreas cancer data group and recently served as a member of the University at Buffalo’s inaugural Center for Diversity Innovation's Distinguished Visiting Scholar cohort 2020-21. Professor Eason has faculty affiliations across UW-Madison including the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work, Robert M. LaFollette School of Public Affairs, Department of Afro-American Studies, Center for Demography and Ecology, Institute for Research on Poverty, the Applied Population Lab, and the Carbone Cancer Center. From 2010-2013, he was as Assistant Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University before moving to the Department of Sociology at Texas A&M from 2013-2017. Before receiving an M.P.P. & Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, he worked as a congregation-based community organizer focusing on housing and criminal justice issues and served as a political organizer most notably for then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama. He is a mixed-methods researcher specializing in ethnography and rare events and research interests in rural/urban communities, punishment, and race. His work on COVID in Confined Spaces is funded by the National Science Foundation.


Location IN PERSON: in 1101 Morrill Hall.  We are requesting advanced registration so that we can track capacity.  Please use this link to RSVP.

Location ONLINE VIA ZOOM: Online via Zoom - Zoom Link to Register

This will be held as a HYBRID seminar.  Please therefore register using either the link for the in person RSVP or using the registration link for the virtual zoom meeting.  Same seminar, but please register for the method you wish to attend

COVID-19 Information

MPRC public events for Fall 2021 will be a mix of in person and  online via Zoom(One or the other, not hybrid).  For in person events, all event attendees must follow current protocols

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