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Prisons as Economic Resources in Borderlands Texas: Regional Inequities in Sentenced Inmates vs Prison Location

Ellwyn R. Stoddard, S. Fernando Rodriguez


For purposes of this study, the Texas borderlands region consists of forty-one border and contiguous counties (Map I). Defining the borderlands region in this fashion provides analytical comparability with Lulac vs Richards, et al. (Stoddard 1992). Not only does this region include America's most concentrated poverty area, it suffers from inadequate state funding of health care and education. Texas ranks only 37th among the 52 states in support of basic education, experiencing the highest minority dropout rate of any border state. It is not surprising, therefore, that residents of borderlands cities and counties require high welfare budgets, register low educational achievement and suffer high teen pregnancy rates. Border health and health care are substandard (Teller, 1978), border schools suffer from inequitable distribution of public funds (Webking and Rocha, 1992) and legal challenges to limited availability of advanced degree programs in border universities have been made (Stoddard, 1992). The minority drop-out rate in Texas exceeds that of other border states (Balch, 1990) and with its limited education and poverty lifestyles, teen pregnancy has become an epidemic in the Texas borderlands (Stoddard, 1993).

This pattern of inequity and systematic neglect of educational and social needs in the Texas borderlands is also reflected in the spatial distribution of its state prison facilities. Though logically prisons are built to accommodate inmates from adjacent areas, Texas has concentrated its prisons in the east-central region, largely ignoring its borderlands. To mask this deprivation, site selection teams have been known to give site preference to unpopular locations within a community, later citing local rejection as the reason for building the prison elsewhere. This essay examines the disparities between high inmate-sending communities on the border and the absence of state prison facilities within the Texas borderlands.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229