Politics, Prisons, and Law Enforcement: An Examination of the Emergence of “Law and Order” Politics in Texas


  • Michael C. Campbell

  • This research would not have been possible without funding by Grant 0752153 from the National Science Foundation. As well as support from the University of California, Irvine's Chancellor's Club, which greatly facilitated the project's progress and I am grateful to both for their financial support. I would like to thank Valerie Jenness and the anonymous reviewers and editors for kindly reading previous drafts and providing the insightful comments that made the article better. My deepest thanks goes to Kitty Calavita, whose diligence, intellectual precision, mentorship, and encouragement helped me refine the article. Please direct correspondence to Michael C. Campbell, Department of Sociology, Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, IL 60115; e-mail: mcampbell7@niu.edu.


This article examines the rise of “law and order” politics in Texas, providing an in-depth archival case study of changes in prison policy in a Southern state during the pivotal period when many U.S. states turned to mass incarceration. It brings attention to the important role an insurgent Republican governor and law enforcement officials played in shaping crime policy. Law enforcement's role is considered within a broader examination of political strategy during a period of intense socioeconomic volatility. The findings suggest that within particular political contexts, especially those with low levels of political participation, law enforcement agents might play a key role in shaping punishment.