A cross‐section of 1980 US data on the prison population and its rate of inflow is examined. Regression analysis is used to investigate the impact of prison overcrowding, race, crime and unemployment on the above variables. Racial composition and overcrowding are found to have significant positive impacts on the numbers in prison and the rate of inflow. Unemployment does not have a significant influence, nor does the crime rate influence inflow, but it does have a significant positive correlation with the level of the prison population.
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