Voters Don’t Want to Fund New Jails? Just Rename Them “Inmate Processing Centers”

Saturday, November 09, 2013

A jail by another name smelled a little sweeter to voters in Harris County, Texas, who have been reluctant to approve spending money on housing prisoners.


Six years ago, local officials put a bond measure on the ballot to fund a new jail, only to watch it get rejected. So they tried again…but instead of asking for funding for a jail, politicians called the project a joint city-county “inmate processing center.”


The bond measure squeaked by on Election Day this week, by a margin of only 456 votes (out of 224,126 ballots cast).


A pre-election poll indicated voters would strongly back the bond this time at least in part because the word “jail” was avoided.


“Maybe it’s because we called it a joint inmate processing center as opposed to a jail, but that’s what’s on the ballot,” Rice University political science professor Bob Stein told The Bond Buyer. “And more importantly, voters support this regardless of their perception of crime.”


Stein’s survey, conducted for Houston stations KHOU and KHUF, showed 58% of respondents favored the processing center, with 21% opposed.


The fact that the measure barely won demonstrated that many voters weren’t swayed by the name change to support it.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Harris County Voters Barely Support Jail Expansion, If You Don't Call It That (by Scott Henson, Grits for Breakfast)

Just Don’t Call It a Jail (by Scott Henson, Grits for Breakfast)


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