Exploring the Time-Varying Determinants of State Spending on Corrections

Joshua H. Williams, Michael Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: The current study examines the percentage of a state’s total expenditures that is allocated for corrections in an attempt to untangle how the influence of key determinants helped to shift state resources in ways likely to aid prison expansion. This study further attempts to address how the salience of crime, partisan politics, and racial and social threats may have shifted over time and across regions. Methods: The study employs a pooled time-series analysis of 49 states from 1971 through 2008, with a final sample size of N = 1862 cases, to examine the factors that help to predict the log-transformed percent of total state expenditures allocated for the total direct expenditures on corrections. Results: The current study finds that determinants of state-level corrections spending vary across time. Violent crime had a positive and significant influence on corrections spending during the 80s, while Republican strength was similarly associated with increases in spending from the 80s through the 90s. Further, beginning in the 80s, percentage African-American were negatively associated with the proportion of budget allocated for corrections. Conclusions: The findings presented in this study emphasize the importance of time and place when trying to untangle trends in correctional budget decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-692
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Quantitative Criminology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Correctional spending
  • Incarceration
  • Punishment


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