While big cities across the U.S. make progress toward reducing the number of people entering local jails, smaller cities and rural counties are experiencing an alarming rise in incarcerations.

Understanding the factors behind this shift and helping rural Washington communities overcome their justice system challenges is the goal of new, grant-funded research by sociologists at Washington State University.

Jennifer Schwartz.
Clayton Mosher.
Jennifer Sherman.

The Vera Institute of Justice awarded sociology professor Jennifer Schwartz and associate professor Jennifer Sherman, both at WSU Pullman, and professor Clayton Mosher at WSU Vancouver, a $200,000 grant to examine how state-level reforms, driven by the more urbanized western side of the state, interact with local dynamics in the more rural eastern side.

The researchers will pay particular attention to the region’s distinct populations, including agricultural and ranching communities, college-town communities, Native Americans and migrant farmworkers.

“Rising incarceration in rural county jails is an often-overlooked problem—it must be understood and addressed both nationally and locally,” Sherman said. “We’re thrilled to work with Vera at the forefront of this reform and look forward to continuing this much-needed work.”

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