This report from the Vera Institute of Justice reveals a striking shift in the geography of incarceration: jails are now most heavily used in the least populous areas. While urban pretrial detention rates began to level off or decline in the new millennium, rural rates have continued to increase. Across the country, rates of pretrial detention in rural areas have skyrocketed 436 percent since 1970.
Rural jail growth cannot be explained by an increase in crime, as crime rates are substantially lower in rural versus urban counties, and crime rates are down nationwide. Instead, the report points to a lack of available resources in rural areas, which means smaller jurisdictions may struggle to provide the personnel, tools, and services necessary to safely reduce jail populations. These jurisdictions may also have a financial incentive to increase jail capacity in order to rent jail beds to other authorities–a phenomenon that has increased 888 percent since the 1970s.
For more information about the report, check out safetyandjusticechallenge.org and follow the conversation on Twitter at #RethinkJails.