Study: Minn. Prison Terms Lengthening, Costs Rising
The average prison term for all crimes committed by Minnesota offenders has grown by 38 percent in the past two decades, the 11th largest increase of all states surveyed, costing state taxpayers an additional $93 million, according to a recent report from the Pew Center on the States.
"I think it's important to keep this in context," noted Grant Duwe, research director for the Minnesota Department of Corrections during an interview Tuesday.
Duwe said the Pew study used a per diem figure for incarcerated offenders that MnDOC considers inflated by as much as a third and doesn't take all factors into account. Duwe believes lower crime rates and the nation's second-lowest incarceration rate (Maine ranks lowest) show that Minnesota's criminal justice strategy has produced benefits.
"The increased use of prison has likely contributed at least to some extent to the decrease that we've observed in the crime rate," Duwe said.
"We need to be very careful about the direction we're headed," countered Sarah Walker, chief administrative officer for 180 degrees and a member of the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition, both organizations that seek to help ex-offenders.
Walker points out points out that Minnesota now has the fourth-highest rate in the country of people on probation in the country, with one out of every 26 Minnesotans either on probation, parole and supervised release, or in jail or prison, according to another Pew study.
"We're creating an unsustainable picture in which we're going to guarantee ourselves that we're going to continue to pay for people on the criminal justice end of things," Walker said.
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