Influences of Social Disruption and Political Disaffection on Adult Imprisonment Trends

Rick Ruddell, University of Missouri - St. Louis

This study examined the extent to which extra-legal variables have influenced the use of imprisonment in the United States. Controlling for violent crime, population age structure, unemployment and economic instability, this study uses GLS regression models to examine the relationships between political disaffection, social disruption and adult imprisonment trends from 1952 to 2000 at the national level of analysis. Two dependent variables are examined, the combined state and federal imprisonment and admissions rates. An annual indicator of political disaffection is created using an algorithm that combines a number of self-report survey data from the General Social Survey, National Election Studies, Gallup and Harris Polls. Factor analysis is used to create an annual indicator of social disruption that includes the number of ethnic urban riots, protests and demonstrations, the number of labor disruptions as well as self-reported concern over social transformation and change.

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Updated 05/20/2006