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Pogue: Prisons Can Boost Towns' Economies

According to the 2000 census, prisons have been helping to revive large stretches of rural America. More than a Wal-Mart or a meat-packing plant, state, federal and private prisons, typically housing 1,000 inmates and providing 300 jobs, can put a town on solid economic footing. As communities become more and more familiar with the benefits that prisons bring, they are also becoming increasingly adept at maximizing their windfall through collecting taxes and healthy public service fees. Opening a prison is a natural option for down-and-out towns, said THOMAS F. POGUE, economics professor at the University of Iowa. "It's a more stable industry for a town than a manufacturing plant," Pogue said. "The wage level is a problem, but these prisons are being located where people don't have much of a choice."

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