The Pocatello Prison Siting Story: A Case of Politics

The Pocatello Prison Siting Story: A Case of Politics



The Pocatello Prison Siting Story: A Case of Politics

            Public policy can be defined as the guidelines and regulations that are adopted by the administrative arms of the government regarding an issue or a class of issues that emerge within society (Wing & Vazquez, 2003). Public policy comprises of the bureaucrats, decision-making apparatus, checks and balances and other aspects that work together to govern the actions of citizens. Consequently, public policy analysis can be defined as the process of establishing the most appropriate set of goals among several optional policies that will achieve the best outcomes. As an academic field, public policy entails the study of how to engage different parties and factors effectively to come up with relevant and cost-effective solutions to societal problems. Several authors including Randall Clemons and Mark Mcbeth have attempted to explain the process of public policy analysis and other factors affecting it as well as the way forward. Public policy analysis uses both quantitative and qualitative methods such as case studies and statistical analysis to come up with economically and socially relevant and applicable policies (Wing & Vazquez, 2003).


            The Pocatello Women’s Prison was created because of joint political effort and a need to curb rising insecurity in Idaho. The case study The Pocatello Prison Siting Story: a Case of Politics is part of the numerous investigations into the policy proceedings that are contained in the book Public policy praxis – theory and pragmatism written by Randall Clemons and Mark Mcbeth. In summary, the book takes on a conceptual approach in discussing public policy analysis and other elements (Clemons & McBeth, 2009). The first part of the book tackles the definitions of public policy and its place in society. The trend then shifts towards elaborating on rational and non-rational (political) approaches towards public policy analysis. The last part of the publication talks about several recommendations and emerging approaches that can be used to streamline and better the policy analysis process. The book concludes with the praxis (Clemons & McBeth, 2009).

Key Issues

            The main issue within Chapter 4 is the non-rational or political approach. The chapter talks about the different processes, procedures, parties and techniques that collectively give birth to a political approach in analyzing public policy. The main issue in this chapter revolves around the policy making process. The discussion starts at the beginning of the policy overview process that involves identifying the need for policy. The issue then develops into the formulation, adoption and funding processes and culminates in the implementation and evaluation stage. It is imperative to note that the whole policy making process greatly influences the policy analysis process greatly. Any parties, decisions and factors that influence the poly-making process are subsequently taken into consideration during the analysis stage.

            Another major issue that is evident in the publication is the application of public policy. While it is relatively easy to formulate and adopt a certain policy, it is more difficult to implement it successfully. The book discusses at length the various factors and hurdles that occur at the implementation stage. Clemons and McBeth were also thorough enough to include the real life case of the siting process of Pocatello Prison (Clemons & McBeth, 2009). Through this and other case studies, it was possible to establish the main issues that emerge during the policy implementation stage. Most of these issues were location and situation-specific thereby making public policy analysis even more complicated. This is because even after analysis, it was evident that coming up with universal postulations would be next to impossible (Clemons & McBeth, 2009).


            The case study being evaluated involves the erection of the Pocatello Prison and the consequent political and policy issues that surrounded its establishment. The decision to build the prison was made through a collective vote by the Idaho Board of Corrections. I do not stand to benefit directly and in any way from the analysis of the procurement and decision process but before this decision was made, it was my opinion that from the starts, the difficulties in finding an appropriate location for the prison were signs that the project would not sail smoothly. The high level of bureaucracy in the selection and preparation of a suitable site, in my opinion, was caused by the inclusion of the Division of Public Works. It was their constant re-evaluation and elimination of earlier locations that wasted a lot of public funds and resources. The reason they gave for rejecting the Cusick Creek site was not valid as I failed to find any tangible threats that would make a prison inefficient at that location. The interference from the local and regional politicians was also partly to blame. The decision to build a women’s prison was clearly a state affair. However, the constant interference by governors and area legislators increased pressure and swayed the earlier choices and stalling the project.

There are three main approaches to political analysis: the mixed approach, the bottom-up approach and the top-down approach. The bottom up approach is also referred to as the political approach because of its ability to foster consensus among conflicting politicians. Political approaches to policy analysis take a humble standpoint of the amount of capable options that each individual or party has (Fischer, Miller & Sidney, 2007). This type of perception acknowledges the existence of many policy problems, the lack of awareness of the alternatives and the inability to predict policy outcomes accurately. Therefore, political approaches rarely define and establish long-term objectives in a manner that can be easily executed (Clemons & McBeth, 2009).

Instead, this approach focuses on undersized, achievable goals that do not demand drastic changes. Consequently, political circles have demands that are easier to satisfy and faster to achieve because of the small scope of reforms. When several groups make such small related decision that have an impact on the whole system, it creates the phenomenon that gives it the name Disjointed Incrementalism (Clemons & McBeth, 2009). In such systems, there is no single center of power and in its place; decisions are made by several small groups in small increments. This political approach is most preferred because of several features. One, it allows the relevant parties to constantly change their options and goals simultaneously when they receive new information (Fischer et al, 2007). Therefore, it represents a process aims to merge the ends and the means. The incremental result is a permanent, receptive application of policy to work out problems rather than theatrical, detached events. This incrementalism pressures people to engage many different groups to create policy, thereby developing some depth, and ease reconciliation because the stakes of any individual decision are always low (Clemons & McBeth, 2009).

Lessons Learned, Recommendations, and Practical Applications

            I have learnt that the unnecessary inclusion of politicians into the policy process results in chaos, disorganization and a failure to realize one’s objectives. This is because most politicians come with their own smaller interests that normally clash with the intended interests. Ensuring a clear separation of jurisdiction and power ensures the executive arm of government can operate smoothly and with minimal interference. I have also leant that putting into consideration political elements greatly increases the chances of achieving one’s objectives. Practically, the separation of powers has worked effectively in the United States where the federal and state governments work in tandem but separately.


Clemons, R. S. & McBeth, M. K. (2009). Public policy praxis: A case approach for understanding policy and analysis. New York: Pearson / Longman.

Fischer, F., Miller, G., & Sidney, M. S. (2007). Handbook of public policy analysis: Theory, politics, and methods. Boca Raton: CRC/Taylor & Francis

Wing, J. J. & Vazquez, S. P. (2003). Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center, domestic violence program: Process and outcome evaluation. Meridian, Idaho: Idaho State Police, Planning, Grants, and Research Bureau, Statistical Analysis Center, S.T.O.P. Violence against Women.

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