The Valparaiso University Law Review has now posted the final version of my article “Mass Incarceration in Three Midwestern States: Origins and Trends.” Here’s the abstract:
This Article considers how the mass incarceration story has played out over the past forty years in three medium-sized, Midwestern states, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The three stories are similar in many respects, but notable differences are also apparent. For instance, Minnesota’s imprisonment rate is less than half that of the other two states, while Indiana imprisons more than twice as many drug offenders as either of its peers. The Article seeks to unpack these and other imprisonment trends and to relate them to crime and arrest data over time, focusing particularly on the relative importance of violent crime and drug enforcement as drivers of imprisonment growth.
This paper was part of an interesting symposium issue on mass incarceration and the drug war.
Among the eleven biggest Midwestern cities, Chicago has experienced the largest drop in homicide rates over the past quarter-century, while Cincinnati has experienced the largest increase. The other nine cities are scattered between the biggest loser and the biggest gainer, reflecting a range of markedly different urban experiences with lethal violence since the mid-1980s.
This rather messy graph indicates the annual number of homicides (murder and other nonnegligent manslaughter) per 100,000 residents for each of the eleven Midwestern jurisdictions with a population of more than 250,000:
Other than Detroit’s position as the region’s perennial homicide champ, it is hard to discern any patterns in the mass of lines.
The following table provides a clearer picture of each city’s trajectory. Continue reading “Violence in the Heartland, Part IV: The Biggest Losers (and Gainers)”
Despite their geographical proximity and economic and cultural similarities, the states of the Midwest have had very different rates of violent crime over the past five decades. Moreover, through periods of dramatic increases and decreases in violent crime, the relative positions of the states have remained fairly stable. The low-violence states in 1960 remain at the low end today, while the high-violence states in 1960 remain at the high end today. However, the gap between the high states and low states has been slowly diminishing for many years. In another decade, the state that has historically had the highest rate of violence, Illinois, may conceivably fall to about the same level as the state that has historically had the lowest, Iowa.
Readers of this Blog may know that I have previously written a series of posts on crime and punishment in three midwestern states, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (e.g., here and here). With this post, I begin a new series that will explore regional trends more broadly. With violent crime such a staple of local news coverage, I think it’s helpful to be able to place the crime du jour within a wider spatial and temporal context; perhaps this bigger-picture view may lessen the tendency to adopt hastily conceived policy responses to whatever happens to be the latest outrage.
Here are the rates of reported violent crime (per 100,000 residents) in the midwestern states and the U.S. as a whole since 1960: Continue reading “Violence in the Heartland, 1960-2012–Part One”
Last week, the Audit Services Division of the Milwaukee County Office of the Comptroller released a helpful new report, “Electronic Monitoring can Achieve Substantive Savings for Milwaukee County, but Only if Pursued on a Large Scale with Satisfactory Compliance.” Although the voluminous report particularly focuses on electronic monitoring, it also provides a wealth of background information about the recent history of our local jail, House of Correction, and alternatives to incarceration. The report documents a rich array of new or recently reinvigorated programs that are intended to divert defendants from the jail or House of Correction, either at the pretrial stage or post-adjudication. The report also notes widespread support for these initiatives among nearly all major stakeholders in the County’s criminal justice system, with the most significant exception being Sheriff David Clarke.
Media coverage centered on the report’s finding that home detention and electronic monitoring of larger numbers of offenders might save the County more than $2.5 million in costs at the House of Correction. The Office of the Sheriff responded to this finding in a characteristically derisive fashion, particularly criticizing the House’s current leadership for placing drunk drivers on electronic monitoring.
Although the war of words among County officials makes good copy, I think the real story in the report is the extensive and innovative collaboration that has been occurring for the past half-dozen years between court officials, elected leaders, prosecutors, public defenders, and various other stakeholders in order to address Milwaukee’s chronic jail overcrowding and to develop cost-effective alternatives to incarceration. Continue reading “Alternatives to Incarceration: The Importance of Local Collaboration and Leadership”
A new report from the UWM Employment and Training Institute shows that Wisconsin leads the nation in incarcerating black males. Based on data from the 2010 U.S. census, Wisconsin incarcerates about one in every eight of its black men between the ages of 18 and 64. This includes individuals held in state and local correctional facilities. The Badger State’s black incarceration rate is, in fact, about one-third higher than that of the second-place state, Oklahoma, and nearly double the national average.
Wisconsin also leads the nation in incarcerating Native-American males, but its white-male incarceration rate (one-tenth of the black rate) closely tracks the national average. Wisconsin’s Hispanic incarceration rate is actually below the national average.
The Milwaukee County data are particularly striking: more than half of the County’s black males between the ages of 30 and 44 have been or currently are housed in a state correctional institution.
Is this a recent phenomenon? I’ve taken a look at some historical data on racial disparities for my three-states research. The following graph indicates that Wisconsin has been above Indiana and Minnesota for some time in black imprisonment (that is, black prisoners per 100,000 black residents), but that the current wide gap did not really open up until after 1990:
Continue reading “Wisconsin #1 in Black Incarceration; How Did We Get Here?”
As noted here a few weeks ago, my forthcoming article comparing imprisonment trends in Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in now available on-line. Due to space constraints, I was unable to include in the article all of the interesting data I have collected on the three states. I’ll present some of that additional material in an occasional series of posts here.
Today, let’s take a look at the supervised populations of the three states. The supervised population is comprised of four subgroups: those in prisons, those in jails, those on probation, and those out on post-imprisonment supervised release (a status that goes by different names in different jurisdictions, but which I will call parole). As is well known, Minnesota has a remarkably low imprisonment rate (at least by U.S. standards), although all three states have experienced an imprisonment boom since the 1970s. Here are the imprisonment numbers, reflecting the number of prisoners per 100,000 state residents:
As the graph indicates, Minnesota has maintained a consistently lower imprisonment rate than the other two states since the mid-1960s. Indeed, the Minnesota advantage has tended to widen over time. By contrast, Indiana has generally had the highest imprisonment rate, although Wisconsin has been close at times, and even took the lead for a few years.
The story is quite different, however, if you consider the supervision numbers more broadly. Continue reading “Tale of Three States: Minnesota’s Surprisingly Large Supervised Population”
A draft of my new article, “Mass Incarceration in the Three Midwestern States: Origins and Trends,” is now available on SSRN. Here’s the abstract:
This Article considers how the mass incarceration story has played out over the past forty years in three medium-sized Midwestern states, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The three stories are similar in many respects, but notable differences are also apparent. For instance, Minnesota’s imprisonment rate is less than half that of the other two states, while Indiana imprisons more than twice as many drug offenders as either of its peers. The Article seeks to unpack these and other imprisonment trends and to relate them to crime and arrest data over time, focusing particularly on the relative importance of violent crime and drug enforcement as drivers of imprisonment growth.
The article builds on my series of “Tale of Three States” blog posts from about a year ago. It will appear in print later this year in a symposium issue of the Valparaiso Law Review.
In 2010, Wisconsin law enforcement agencies reported 16,111 arrests for simple possession of marijuana, including both adult and juvenile offenders. The same year, Minnesota agencies reported only 7,453. With this one glaring exception, Wisconsin is not otherwise noticeably more aggressive about making drug arrests. Wisconsin also made more possession arrests for other drugs than did Minnesota, but the gap was much less pronounced (4,807 to 3,737), while Minnesota actually outstripped Wisconsin by a considerable margin when it came to arrests for drug trafficking (6,382 to 4,832). So, it is not as if our neighbors to the west have declared a general truce in the War on Drugs, while we have doggedly fought on. Rather, there seems something specific about marijuana possession that is differentiating the two states.
It seems unlikely that differences in marijuana use could account for such a large difference in the arrest rates. Indeed, based on the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, it appears that marijuana use in Minnesota is, if anything, slightly higher than in Wisconsin. So, the differences in arrest rates probably result to a significant degree from differences in police behavior. What drives those differences is not immediately apparent from any data that I have seen.
As I have observed in earlier posts, differences in criminal-justice outputs between the two states cry out for justification because the two states are so similar in population size and crime rate. Continue reading “Why Does Wisconsin Arrest Twice as Many People for Marijuana Possession as Minnesota?”
In the previous post in this series, I took the imprisonment data from Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin back to 1991. I’ve been interested, though, in pinpointing when exactly the Minnesota-Wisconsin imprisonment disparity arose, which requires going back further — much further, to the 1950’s. Here are the numbers:
||WI Imprisonment Rate (per 1000,000)
||MN Imprisonment Rate (per 1000,000)
||IN Imprisonment Rate (per 1000,000)
The numbers tell a remarkable story. Here are some of the parts of that story that stand out for me:
Continue reading “A Tale of Three States, Pt. 6: Happy Days”