Courthouses or Schoolhouses? Local Policy Makers and Their Priorites

Paul Stretesky, Colorado State University
N. Prabha Unnithan, Colorado State University

Setting a priority between criminal justice and education has attracted a great deal of attention from government officials and the public. Despite this interest, little is known about the factors that influence priority preferences among policy-makers. This exploratory study examines government officials to determine if local contextual characteristics and/or personal characteristics are associated with criminal justice and education priority setting. The data for the study come from a national survey of elected and appointed governmental leaders in a random sample of U.S. counties. The results indicate that local contextual characteristics, rather than personal characteristics of the policy makers, are associated with criminal justice prioritization. Among the most important contextual predictors is the percentage of the county's population 16 to 19 years of age that are not enrolled in high school and also not employed. The finding that local changes related to the prioritizing of criminal justice or education is also important.

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Updated 05/20/2006