Local politics have significant effects on the philosophies underlying jail administration as well as implementation details and budgeting. For example, one of the major differences in underlying philosophies is whether jails focus on punishment or rehabilitation. If jails focus on punishment, prisoners may be treated harshly with an emphasis on order and discipline. Joe Arpacio, the infamous Phoenix sheriff elected by people supporting the concept of jails as punishment and riding a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, often used tactics designed to humiliate and intimidate prisoners.
A contrasting situation in local politics is Norway, where the focus is on rehabilitation. That means that prisons and jails emphasize education, counseling, and job training in order to facilitate reintegration of prisoners into society upon their release and prevent re-offending. In general, Norwegian political attitudes emphasize community goods and this local political philosophy creates a different mode of incarceration than one which emphasizes competition or punishment.
Local economic philosophies also affect jails, where free market or small government advocates tend to support privatizing jails while progressives are more concerned with reducing jail populations by using technology such as GPS tracking and community service, especially for non-violent offenders.
Political influence can be harmful, as when the for-profit private jail industry can influence policy through campaign donations. Also, political influence can lead to bad decisions based on passing fads rather than intelligent long term planning. On the other hand, politics is the expression of the will of the people; in a democracy, one fundamental principle is that all citizens should have input into significant decisions, and one cannot sustain a democracy without allowing the public to prevail in decision making.