Minnesota criminal recidivism rate is nation's worst

Minnesota has the worst criminal recidivism rate in the country? That's a national ranking we're not too proud of.

A Pew Center on the States report finds that 61.2 percent of prisoners released here were back behind bars after three years, either because of a new offense or because they violated the conditions of their parole.

Not only that, but our recidivism rate actually grew by more than 10 percent between the two years examined by the report, 1999 and 2004. And we far outpaced the latest national average of 43.3 percent.

Minnesota's recidivism rate grew.
Minnesota's recidivism rate grew.

There are some caveats here: Pew's study covers 41 states, not the entire country. And comparing recidivism rates between states can be a tricky business because of variations in how offenses are prosecuted and reported.

Still, even if you discount how we compare to other states, it seems crazy that well over half of our ex-cons end up back behind bars so quickly.

Minnesota Commissioner of Corrections Tom Roy, who took over the post in January from Pawlenty appointee Christine Bray, told Pew the numbers may have something to do with how we treat inmates like lost causes.

"Catching the guy and prosecuting him is really important work, but if we don't do anything with that individual after we've got him, then shame on us. If all that effort goes to waste and we just open the doors five years later, and it's the same guy walking out the door and the same criminal thinking, we've failed in our mission."

From the looks of the Pew study, Roy's inherited a messy mission.

Download and read: State of Recidivism -- The Revolving Door of America's Prisons

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