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Should Minnesota's Corrections Budget Be Increased?

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The passage of public safety legislation this week in the Senate (SF 802) and House (HF 1162) included a reduction of approximately $100 million of the base budgets across more than a dozen departments – the largest being a $34.2 million cut to the Department of Corrections.

However, the bill also includes a one-time federal appropriation of $38 million allocated to the Department of Corrections to bring the total public safety finance reduction down to $61.3 million (and a $3.6 million biennial base increase to Corrections).

The financial reductions to public safety by the DFL-controlled legislature cut against Governor Pawlenty’s stated priorities at the beginning of the session when he declared that public safety, along with the military and veterans and K-12 education, were the top priorities in his budget.

But while the United States stands out across the world for its large prison population and the billions of tax dollars spent annually on corrections expenditures, the cuts being made to Minnesota’s budget take place within the context of a state that is already spending the second lowest amount of money on corrections per capita in the country.

According to a Smart Politics analysis of US Census 2008 population estimates and corrections data compiled by the Pew Center on the States, Minnesota spent $460 million on corrections in 2008, or $88.12 per capita. That is the second lowest level of expenditures per capita in the country, ahead of only the state of New Hampshire ($76.76).

By comparison, Alaska spends $349.70 per capita on corrections, the most in the country, followed by California ($262.81) and Delaware ($229.07).

In the Upper Midwest, the neighboring state of Wisconsin spends more than twice as much per capita as the Gopher State on corrections, at $191.90 (#10 nationwide). Iowa ($117.57), North Dakota ($101.33), and South Dakota ($100.72) come in at #34, #41, and #42 in the nation respectively.

Corrections Expenditures Per Capita by State, 2008

Rank
State
Population
Cost (mill.)
Per capita
1
Alaska
686,293
$240
$349.70
2
California
36,756,666
$9,660
$262.81
3
Delaware
873,092
$200
$229.07
4
Michigan
10,003,422
$2,180
$217.93
5
Maryland
5,633,597
$1,190
$211.23
6
Oregon
3,790,060
$763
$201.32
7
Connecticut
3,501,252
$699
$199.64
8
Wyoming
532,668
$103
$193.37
9
Massachusetts
6,497,967
$1,250
$192.37
10
Wisconsin
5,627,967
$1,080
$191.90
11
Vermont
621,270
$116
$186.71
12
New Jersey
8,682,661
$1,580
$181.97
13
Hawaii
1,288,198
$228
$176.99
14
Rhode Island
1,050,788
$185
$176.06
15
Montana
967,440
$169
$174.69
16
Virginia
7,769,089
$1,250
$160.89
17
Ohio
11,485,910
$1,790
$155.84
18
Florida
18,328,340
$2,820
$153.86
19
Pennsylvania
12,448,279
$1,840
$147.81
20
New York
19,490,297
$2,870
$147.25
21
Arizona
6,500,180
$951
$146.30
22
Louisiana
4,410,796
$625
$141.70
23
Washington
6,549,224
$917
$140.02
24
New Mexico
1,984,356
$277
$139.59
25
Idaho
1,523,816
$207
$135.84
26
North Carolina
9,222,414
$1,250
$135.54
27
Oklahoma
3,642,361
$491
$134.80
28
Colorado
4,939,456
$625
$126.53
29
Kentucky
4,269,245
$521
$122.04
30
Arkansas
2,855,390
$348
$121.87
31
Kansas
2,802,134
$341
$121.69
32
Texas
24,326,974
$2,960
$121.68
33
Utah
2,736,424
$330
$120.60
34
Iowa
3,002,555
$353
$117.57
35
Maine
1,316,456
$153
$116.22
36
Georgia
9,685,744
$1,100
$113.57
37
South Carolina
4,479,800
$487
$108.71
38
Tennessee
6,214,888
$675
$108.61
39
Illinois
12,901,563
$1,360
$105.41
40
Indiana
6,376,792
$669
$104.91
41
North Dakota
641,481
$65
$101.33
42
South Dakota
804,194
$81
$100.72
43
Nebraska
1,783,432
$179
$100.37
44
West Virginia
1,814,468
$181
$99.75
45
Nevada
2,600,167
$253
$97.30
46
Missouri
5,911,605
$575
$97.27
47
Mississippi
2,938,618
$266
$90.52
48
Alabama
4,661,900
$420
$90.09
49
Minnesota
5,220,393
$460
$88.12
50
New Hampshire
1,315,809
$101
$76.76
Note: Population estimates for July 1, 2008 from US Census Bureau. Corrections expenditure data from Pew Center on the States. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Minnesota also spends the second lowest percentage of its general funds in the country on corrections expenditures – just 2.6 percent in 2008, ahead of only Alabama (2.5 percent).

By comparison, Wisconsin, ranked 10th in the country, spends more than 3 times as much of its general fund on corrections, at 8.0 percent. South Dakota (7.1 percent), Iowa (6.0 percent), and North Dakota (5.4 percent) also spend more than twice as much of their general funds on corrections as the Gopher State.

Corrections Expenditures as Percentage of General Fund, 2008

Rank
State
% General Fund
1
Michigan
22.0
2
Oregon
10.6
3
Florida
10.0
4
Arizona
9.5
5
Vermont
9.4
6
California
9.3
7
Colorado
8.6
7
Montana
8.6
9
Maryland
8.2
10
Arkansas
8.0
10
Wisconsin
8.0
12
Nevada
7.9
13
Virginia
7.6
14
Idaho
7.3
14
Ohio
7.3
16
South Dakota
7.1
17
Oklahoma
7.0
18
Texas
6.8
18
Missouri
6.8
20
New Hampshire
6.8
21
Pennsylvania
6.7
22
South Carolina
6.6
23
Mississippi
6.4
23
Louisiana
6.4
25
Washington
6.3
26
North Carolina
6.2
27
Delaware
6.1
27
Illinois
6.1
29
Iowa
6.0
30
Georgia
5.9
31
Wyoming
5.7
31
Utah
5.7
33
Kansas
5.6
34
Rhode Island
5.5
34
Kentucky
5.5
34
Tennessee
5.5
37
New York
5.4
37
North Dakota
5.4
39
Indiana
5.3
40
Nebraska
5.1
41
Maine
4.9
42
New Jersey
4.8
43
Alaska
4.7
43
West Virginia
4.7
45
New Mexico
4.6
45
Massachusetts
4.6
47
Connecticut
4.3
47
Hawaii
4.3
49
Minnesota
2.6
50
Alabama
2.5
Source: Pew Center on the States.

Given Minnesota’s relatively low amount of expenditures on corrections, it should come as little surprise that the state also has a relatively low percentage of individuals in state prison – as it costs much more to lock someone up than to put them on probation.

In fact, Minnesota has the second lowest percentage of individuals in state prison in the country, as a percentage of total state population. At 0.171 percent, Minnesota has less than twice as many individuals in state prisons as both the neighboring states of Wisconsin (.409 percent, #25 in the nation) and South Dakota (.405 percent, #26).

Percentage of Residents in State Prison By State, 2008

Rank
State
Population
Prison
% Prison
1
Delaware
873,092
7,276
0.833
2
Alaska
686,293
5,167
0.753
3
Oklahoma
3,642,361
23,957
0.658
4
Texas
24,326,974
159,016
0.654
5
Connecticut
3,501,252
20,924
0.598
6
Alabama
4,661,900
27,816
0.597
7
Mississippi
2,938,618
17,479
0.595
8
Arizona
6,500,180
37,700
0.580
9
South Carolina
4,479,800
23,862
0.533
10
Florida
18,328,340
97,072
0.530
11
Nevada
2,600,167
13,245
0.509
11
Georgia
9,685,744
49,337
0.509
13
Missouri
5,911,605
29,857
0.505
14
Michigan
10,003,422
50,190
0.502
15
California
36,756,666
171,500
0.467
16
Arkansas
2,855,390
13,307
0.466
17
Hawaii
1,288,198
5,978
0.464
18
Louisiana
4,410,796
20,461
0.464
19
Colorado
4,939,456
22,666
0.459
20
Idaho
1,523,816
6,744
0.443
21
Ohio
11,485,910
50,731
0.442
22
Virginia
7,769,089
32,972
0.424
23
Maryland
5,633,597
23,282
0.413
24
North Carolina
9,222,414
37,970
0.412
25
Wisconsin
5,627,967
23,028
0.409
26
South Dakota
804,194
3,256
0.405
27
Indiana
6,376,792
25,130
0.394
28
Rhode Island
1,050,788
4,018
0.382
29
Wyoming
532,668
2,028
0.381
30
Pennsylvania
12,448,279
45,969
0.369
31
Oregon
3,790,060
13,925
0.367
32
Illinois
12,901,563
45,215
0.350
33
Vermont
621,270
2,145
0.345
34
Kentucky
4,269,245
14,545
0.341
35
New York
19,490,297
62,602
0.321
36
New Mexico
1,984,356
6,350
0.320
37
Kansas
2,802,134
8,696
0.310
37
Tennessee
6,214,888
19,248
0.310
39
Montana
967,440
2,940
0.304
40
New Jersey
8,682,661
25,359
0.292
41
Iowa
3,002,555
8,732
0.291
42
West Virginia
1,814,468
4,907
0.270
43
Washington
6,549,224
17,410
0.266
44
Nebraska
1,783,432
4,505
0.253
45
New Hampshire
1,315,809
2,891
0.220
46
North Dakota
641,481
1,368
0.213
47
Utah
2,736,424
5,223
0.191
48
Massachusetts
6,497,967
11,300
0.174
49
Minnesota
5,220,393
8,950
0.171
50
Maine
1,316,456
2,222
0.169
Note: Population estimates for July 1, 2008 from US Census Bureau. Corrections expenditure data from Pew Center on the States. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

The Gopher State, however, is not without its share of criminals. The difference is that Minnesota’s criminals tend to end up on probation, not in prison, relative to other states.

Minnesota is actually one of the leading states in the country in terms of the largest percentage of individuals on probation. At nearly 128,000, 2.45 percent of the state’s population is on probation for state crimes, or the 5th highest rate in the nation (behind Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island).

By contrast, Minnesota has more than twice the rate of people on probation for state crimes as the neighboring states of Wisconsin (0.95 percent, #33), Iowa (0.76 percent, #38), South Dakota (0.73 percent, #40), and North Dakota (0.70 percent, #42).

With the DFL legislature not funding corrections in its public safety bill to the extent that Governor Pawlenty wanted in his budget, it will be interesting to see what the Governor will do with the bill sent up for his signature on Tuesday. The legislation passed the House quite easily, 85-45, but only passed the Senate by a 36-30 vote.

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4 Comments


  • Perhaps someone could correct me if I am wrong. Statistics will show that a majority of the prison population consists of "drug offenders".

    The "Drug War" appears to be nothing but a "stimulus bill" for the law enforcement industry.

    Is it financially sustainable to criminalize behavior that could be better dealt with in the medical and substance abuse community?

  • You sire are not wrrrong.

  • Minnesota, clearly does not need increase the budget for corrections. The can change things to fines vs jail time for things like no proof of insurance and other traffic violations. Maybe quit paying public safety officers that are off duty while waiting trial. No one else gets paid for their mistakes. It might make them act accordingly in the offices they hold. Maybe quit paying for treatments of known drug addicts. maybe do something unpresidented for drunk drivers. Give them non negotiable jail terms to the tune of 1st offense 1 yr jail time and remove the license permanently. 2nd offense life in jail then there is no 3rd offense or more. Why are we sentencing people to the work house where they just sit and watch movies? The problems lie within the courts and state as the dui conviction is a cash cow for the state. if we quit paying for heroine addictions and other addictions as well as other things, Maybe allow the private sectors to own and operate casinos, You people need to change your ways, Quit relying on past laws and change them so they fit the needs of minnesotans today. You people have managed to get me to say I am embarrased to be a Minnesotan along with another matter the senate race between, Franken and Coleman, Coleman should be gracious that he got to serve and lose graciously but No he has to show the world what a big baby he really is. So what we need to do is quit spending Minnesota's money foolishly and that is what you are clearly proposing. Just think of the jobs casinos would be responsible for creating and also if we have REAL casinos here we would also get travelers here and the increased travelers would bring revenue to our historic sites like Ft Snelling, The fairs and festivals and etc. We have wonderful things here so why don't we find ways to make them work to our advantage? But no you want to penalize us for living in this great state.

  • I want to say - thank you for this!

  • Leave a comment


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