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Publication Date

Spring 2017

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Megan Thiele


California, Incarceration, Jail Conditions, Politics, Progressive, Public Policy

Subject Areas



Despite the exponential rise in the number of incarcerated individuals in the last three decades, the U.S. prison population has dropped in recent years. This decrease is often attributed to recent progressive policy reforms that focus on rehabilitative rather than punitive strategies. In California, there have been complex changes to current correctional policies through reform and rehabilitative program funding that is often attached to county jail expansion. County officials are currently renovating aging jail facilities to create better “conditions” for incarcerated individuals. This is partially due to a broad assumption that criminal justice-involved populations are less likely to recidivate if they have proper access to rehabilitative services and improved conditions in jail. This research explores possible links between jail living conditions and employment and educational life plans post-incarceration. Using self-reported survey data (n = 24) from a progressive county in California, the author finds that jail living conditions are not necessarily associated with desires to engage employment and educational opportunities post-incarceration. It is suggested that jail expansion and improvement in living conditions is a new way to legitimize the use of incarceration to deal with social problems connected to the lack of access to social services outside of jail.