Minnesota prison term lengths on the rise as crime falls

Categories: Crime
Minnesota inmates are spending more time behind bars these days.
-- Michael Biskey, south Mpls resident, could get 10 years for having a bunch of pot in his garage
-- Shakopee women's prison houses 79 murderers, is across street from elementary school, has no fence
-- Twin Cities 4th-most peaceful metro; Minnesota 4th-most peaceful state, study finds [GRAPHICS]

Minnesota's crime rate has fallen precipitously since 1990, but that's been accompanied by a troubling trend -- prison term lengths are increasing.

According to a new study by the Pew Center on the States, the average prison term length for all crimes committed in the state was 2.3 years in 2009 -- up 38 percent from the 1.7 year average length in 1990. That's the 11th-highest increase in the country over that timeframe.

The report estimates that increased prison terms cost taxpayers $93 million. But Grant Duwe, research director for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, disputes that figure, arguing in a KSTP report that Pew's calculations are based on an inflated per diem number.

From 1986 to 2008, Minnesota's crime index fell by nearly 30 percent. Yet, over roughly that period, inmates ended up serving nearly 40 percent longer prison terms. Of course, it could be argued that there's no correlation between those trends. Could prison term reduction be accompanied by decreasing crime rates? Possibly.

But during the KSTP interview, Duwe says he thinks "the increased use of prison has likely contributed to some extent to the decrease we've observed in the crime rate."

Assuming Duwe's right, is it worth it? Some, such as Sarah Walker, head of the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition, argue that relying on incarceration to reduce crime is an unsustainable approach.

According to KSTP, one out of every 26 Minnesotans is now on probation, parole, in prison, or in jail. That's the fourth-highest rate in the country.

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My Voice Nation Help

  Yeah,, and another thing: they keep on arresting more drunk drivers even though traffic fatalities have been falling for years!!! what's up with that???


 And crap, federal regulators keep increasing the rules against polluting the environment even though everyone knows our air and rivers are cleaner than ever before in our history.


 It's just not FAIRRRRR!!!!   WAH< WAH..

gads, Rupar, THICK would be a kind word for you....

Andrew Norris
Andrew Norris

Well, i do know that many criminals get out of jail sooner than they should due to overcrowding. Does that mean less people are committing serious crimes and the ones that are in jail are serving the sentence they were supposed to get anyways?


@citypages Gotta keep those prisons full somehow!

Holly Fields
Holly Fields

Is it possible the crimes rates have lowered because the criminals are staying in jail longer? They aren't on the streets to commit more crimes, for one thing, and it it discourages others from commiting their crimes, for another? At least, that would be the logic behind it.

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