Minn. Imprisonment Rate Among Lowest in US

Updated: 07/26/2013 7:48 AM KSTP.com By: Leslie Dyste

A new report shows Minnesota's prison population rate is among the nation's lowest.
U.S. Department of Justice statistics released Thursday show Maine had the lowest rate of imprisonment at 145 per 100,000 residents. Minnesota is next with 184 per 100,000 residents.

Click here for the full data set.

"Minnesota uses prison much less than other states do," explained Grant Duwe at the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

"We know that prison is an expensive social resource, so we needed to be able to use that resource wisely," he said.

While the number of people in Minnesota prisons has remained relatively steady over the last several years, with the population in the state's 10 prisons currently at 9,771, the imprisonment rate has jumped 234 percent in the past two decades, according to the BJS data.

The sharp increase is higher than the average increase among the states, but still nowhere near the total number of offenders of other states.

"We would have to have 15,000 more offenders in prison just to reach the national average," Duwe said.

Mark Haase at the Council on Crime and Justice works with offenders and is troubled by Minnesota's huge rise in the rate of imprisonment.

"A lot of it is an unnecessary increase that actually hurts us in the long run," Haase said.

He points to the not-so-flattering statistic that Minnesota is the eighth-highest among states surveyed by the Pew Center for the States in 2009 with people under what's called 'correctional control.'

That includes those in prison, jail, probation, or on supervised release. So a lower rate of people are locked up than other states, but more are being punished overall.

The number of inmates in state prisons across the country declined by more than 25,000 last year, a drop of 1.7 percent, with a total population of nearly 1.6 million people.

Click here to read information from Pew: The Long Reach of American Corrections- Minnesota.