The story "Minnesota's million-dollar inmates" in the Star Tribune used numbers in multiple ways to portray a growing issue in Minnesota prisons: aging inmates are costing taxpayers a lot of money in healthcare.
The reporter used numbers to demonstrate the amount of money spent on inmates, what it is being spent on, the demographics of inmates, and the current health of inmates. To do this, the story included dollar amounts, percents, percent increases, and recent statistics. For instance, the story said that the Corrections Department's medical budget has tripled in the past decade, and was $68 million last year. If the reporter had listed the dollar amount alone, the reader would see that it is a large number but wouldn't have much to compare it to. By saying that this budget has tripled in a relatively short time period, we can see that this problem is growing fast.
There are a lot of numbers in this story, and the large of amount of them can make it slightly overwhelming in some places, but including them in the story helped to break down how much is being spent on what kind of medical treatment. In many places, the author made these numbers easier to graph by explaining the relations of numbers in words, such as saying the budget tripled rather than listing the different budget amounts. The author probably had to crunch some numbers to come up with these relationships, but it made the story easier for the reader to grasp.
The author did not list the sources of these numbers. Because the prison is a public institution, its expenses are public record. One can assume the author found these numbers from public records, but the author didn't list the source. There are some statistics in the story that weren't obvious where the author got them from, however, such as this section:
"More than one in 10 Minnesota inmates is now over age 50 -- a share that has doubled in the past decade -- and increasingly many of them need specialized treatment for costly illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. More than 550 offenders are serving life sentences; at an average age of 40, most face at least 30 more years in prison before they have any chance of parole."
These were all useful statistics, but I was left wondering where the author found them.