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Rural (In)Justice: The Hidden Crisis in America’s Jails

July 11, 2018

The Crime Report

By Marianne Dodson and Dane Stallone

Soaring jail populations, particularly in rural areas, are now driving America’s crisis of mass incarceration, a conference at John Jay College was told Tuesday.

Christian Henrichson, research director for the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the Vera Institute of Justice, said the number of individuals in pretrial detention in rural or small counties with fewer than 250,000 inhabitants began surpassing urban detention rates in 2008—and continues to increase even as urban jail populations are falling.

“In the last couple of decades, mass incarceration has metastasized from the largest cities to almost every community in America,” Henrichson, author of a recently released Vera study on incarceration trends, told rural journalists participating in a conference on “Rural (In)Justice:Covering America’s Hidden Jail Crisis.”

More than 11 million jail admissions are recorded every year, yet few Americans realize that jails are a primary engine of mass incarceration in the U.S. Polls show that rural residents continue to think of it as a problem largely facing urban areas, Henrichson said.

Among the factors driving the increase is the growing use of jails to house the mentally ill.

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