Increasingly rural Illinois prisons dilute Chicago’s political power

by Peter Wagner, December 29, 2003  

New prisons in Illinois are being built further and further from urban Chicago, home to 59% of the state’s prisoners. Prior to 1980, the average prison was 160 miles from the city. Prisons built in the 1980s were an average of almost 220 miles and prisons built in the last decade averaged 260 miles from Chicago.

Because the Census counted 45,000 Illinois prisoners not at home but in their rural prison cells, political power is flowing out of Chicago into increasingly more distant prison towns.


IL DOC Statistics

Paul Street, and Dennis Kass, The Color and Geography of Prison Growth in Illinois [PDF],. Chicago Urban League, page 2.

Tweet this page Follow @PrisonPolicy on Twitter Get our newsletter Donate Contact Us


  • September 21, 2016:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be speaking at Claremont McKenna College in California. Details TBA.

Not near you?
Invite us to your city, college or organization.