Minnesota has the second lowest incarceration rate in the country, according to state correctional officials, and they say that’s because only the most high-risk offenders spend time behind bars.
There are roughly 9,500 inmates in state prisons, representatives of the Minnesota Department of Corrections told members of the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee. Maine has the lowest incarceration rate in the country.
Of the estimated 9,500 inmates in state prisons, 1,604 people are incarcerated at Stillwater Prison (as of Jan. 16) and 439 inmates are incarcerated at the state’s maximum- security facility in Oak Park Heights.
There was a dramatic spike of incarceration (about 3,000 inmates) between 2000 and 2007, due to an increase in methamphetamine offenders and a felony DWI law that was enacted in 2002.
The number of felony DWI offenders went from zero in 2002 to 624 in 2007, and leveled out in recent years.
Most offenses have held steady for five years, Grant Duwe, the DOC’s research director said. However, drug offenses—especially methamphetamines—have dropped.
While crimes against people have increased, the biggest increase since 2007 is offenders violating orders for protection, stalking or harassment. Projections call for an overall increase of 1,500 more offenders in the next decade.
While other states deal with rising prison populations by releasing low-level offenders, DOC officials say Minnesota does not have that problem, largely because of sentencing guidelines and the use of community corrections, supervised release and adult probation.
“Sentencing guidelines have taken the variables out of sentencing practice,” Commissioner Tom Roy said. “Sentencing guidelines have become a discipline that brought judges into conformity around certain offenses, all felony offenses, and it has made sentencing more predictable, prison population predictable, costs predictable. … Those states that don’t have sentencing guidelines are experiencing tremendous problems with prison populations and a disparity in sentencing, racially and in numbers.”
A few other notable statics from the DOC’s 2012 Performance Report include:
- There has not been an escape from a secure facility in more than a decade;
- There were 17 felony-level inmate assaults on prison staff;
- About 83 percent of inmates work or participate in programming;
- 9,072 inmates are enrolled in education programs;
- 1,229 inmates were admitted to chemical dependency programs, 66 percent completed their program;
- 205 inmates were admitted into sex offender treatment, 55 percent completed the program;
- Offender work hours dropped in the last two years due to budget cuts resulting in a reduction of sentence to serve crews. The number of STS offender hours worked declined to about 710,000 in 2011 to 670,000 in 2012, as fewer crew leaders resulted in fewer crews and offender hours worked.
- The average adult operational per diem for 2012 was $84.59, this includes expenses directly related to incarcerating offenders such as facility management, security, food, clothing and linens, treatment and education programming, and medical and behavioral health.
--Mike Cook of House Public Information Services contributed to this report.