Minnesota Lockdown: We're Number One!

For years, law and order types have howled that Minnesota is soft on crime. To some degree, the numbers have borne this out. According to a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, for instance, Minnesota still has the second lowest rate of incarceration in the nation.  On June 30, 2004, for every 100,000 residents in Minnesota, there were 169 people serving a sentence of one year or more in the state's  jails and prisons. By contrast, Louisiana--the state with the highest rate of incarceration--had a whopping 814 people behind bars per 100,000 residents.

But Minnesota's lock 'em up crowd can take heart in another number highlighted in the report: the North Star state now leads the nation in growth of incarceration, with  inmate population swelling by 13.2 percent between June 2003 and June 2004. Only one other state, Montana, experienced a double digit increase over that period. Nationally, the increase was 2.3 percent. The most appalling statistic in the report? At midyear 2004, an estimated  12.6 percent of all black men in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 29 were incarcerated.

Meanwhile, according to the Justice Policy Institute, the U.S., with a total of  2.1 million people behind bars, still leads the world in overall rate of incarceration. Notably, the five runner-ups (in order, England, China, France, Japan, Nigeria) all lock up fewer people per capita than wimpy old Minnesota.

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