CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

The Opioid Epidemic in Rural America: How Current Punitive Policies Generate a Renewed War on Drugs in the Countryside

Britney Firmin, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Humanities; Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Africana Studies; American Public Policy; Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Marie Gottschalk

Date of this Version: 07 April 2020



This research investigation focuses on the proliferation of the opioid epidemic in rural America. In an in-depth case study on one of the hardest hit rural counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, Fayette County will be used as a central proxy for understanding how such an elaborate crisis developed and continues to evolve over time. In particular, a discussion will be made about the public policy approaches of the county’s leaders, who play a central role in addressing the drug crisis. Their punitive policy endorsements will be dissected alongside Fayette County’s chronic poverty and poor economic performance. More broadly, Fayette County leaders’ response approaches to the widespread crisis speak to a much larger context on criminal justice policy and the rise of punitive penal law throughout the most rural regions in the nation. Fayette County stands not only at the epicenter of a rural drug crisis, but a punitive punishment over treatment crisis taking shape across many rural counties in Pennsylvania.


Africana Studies | American Politics | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Economic Policy | Health Policy | Law and Race | Political Science | Public Policy | Social Justice | Social Policy

Suggested Citation

Firmin, Britney, "The Opioid Epidemic in Rural America: How Current Punitive Policies Generate a Renewed War on Drugs in the Countryside" 07 April 2020. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 05 January 2022




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