A Tale of Three States, Pt. 3: Harsh Hoosiers

In the first post in this series, I explored the large gap between the incarceration rates of Minnesota and Wisconsin.  In the second, I discussed racial disparities in the incarcerated populations of the two states.  The disparities in both states are wide, although Wisconsin’s are somewhat larger.  In this entry, I add a third state, Indiana, to the statistical comparisons.  As another medium-sized midwestern state, one might expect that Indiana would have criminal-justice numbers that are similar to Minnesota’s and Wisconsin’s.  Indiana’s numbers, however, point to a criminal-justice sustem that is much larger and harsher than those of its northern neighbors.

As detailed in the table that appears after the jump, Indiana’s imprisonment rate (about 460 per 100,000) easily outstrips Wisconsin’s (387) and dwarfs Minnesota’s (178).  Perhaps even more surprisingly, Indiana’s probation population also exceeds Minnesota’s.  My Minnesota-Wisconsin comparison suggested that Wisconsin imprisons many defendants who would get probation in Minnesota, leading to a much smaller probation population in the former than the latter.  But Indiana seems to incarcerate the same way that Wisconsin does, without any accompanying reduction in the probation numbers.

For that reason, Indiana’s total supervised population of 167,872 is the largest of the three states (although Minnesota, with the smallest overall population of three, still has a somewhat larger per capita supervised population, thanks to its enormous per capita probation number).

Indiana also leads the way in crime.

 

Among the three states, Indiana has highest rate of violent crime, property crime, and homicide.  Higher crime rates may in some sense help to account for Indiana’s higher incarceration and supervision numbers.  For instance, to use a rough measure of the crime-incarceration link, Indiana had 1.5 prisoners in 2010 for each violent crime committed that year.  This is about the same as Wisconsin’s 1.6.  It is thus plausible to suppose that Wisconsin’s prison population would match Indiana’s if Wisconsin had the same number of violent crimes as the Hoosier state.

On the other hand, Minnesota only had about 0.8 prisoners per violent crime, suggesting that the differences between Indiana and Minnesota are not merely the result of different crime rates.

In any event, it is probably too simplistic to assume a one-way relationship between crime and imprisonment.  Imprisonment itself may be crimogenic.  The sorts of life experiences and collateral consequences that flow from incarceration may increase the recidivsm risks of many offenders.  Additionally, some criminologists argue that mass incarceration can have negative cultural effects in some communities; for instance, incarceration may become a source of pride, rather than social stigma, for young men.

For these reasons, it may be as accurate to say that Wisconsin’s lower imprisonment rate leads to its lower crime rate, as it is to say that Wisconsin’s lower crime rate leads to its lower imprisonment rate.  There is probably a certain amount of truth to both propositions.

Thus, Indiana and Wisconsin should both consider whether there are lessons that can be learned from Minnesota.  With a violent crime rate only a little lower than Wisconsin’s, our Gopher nieghbors have half the rate of imprisonment.  Could our imprisonment rate be cut in half without any appreciable increase in our crime rate?

One potential benefit would be a decrease in corrections costs.  Our per capita corrections costs are twice Minnesota’s.  Adding Indiana to the mix, however, creates a puzzle: Indiana’s per capita corrections costs are closer to Minnesota’s than Wisconsin’s.  Indeed, in absolute terms, even though Indiana’s prison and probation populations are both larger than Wisconsin’s, Indiana’s corrections budget is $500 million less.  This large and unexpected disparity, which might be worth exploring in more detail in a later post, might perhaps be due to different ways of counting the money.  Or, on the other hand, it may reflect real policy differences in the amount of money spent per offender.  If the latter, is Indiana too stingy, Wisconsin too generous, or both?

Let’s now take a look at how Indiana does with racial disparities.  Interestingly, Indiana fares much better in this regard than either of its northern neighbors.  Although it has the highest white incarceration rate of the three states, its black incarceration rate is actually much lower than Wisconsin’s.  As a result, the ratio of its black to white incarceration rates is easily the lowest at 5.5, as compared to Minnesota’s 9.1 and Wisconsin’s 10.6.  If Wisconsin could bring its black incarceration rate down to Indiana’s, the result would be a reduction in the incarcerated population of more than 6,000.

All of the data discussed in this post, and then some, are set forth in the table below.  Note that I used an estimate for Indiana’s 2005 prison population.  Because this number seems not to be available, I averaged Indiana’s 2004 and 2006 prison populations in order to estimate the 2005 population.

WI

MN

IN

Population (2010)

5,686,986

5,303,925

6,483,802

Prison Population (2010)

22,019

9,429

29,818

Imprisonment Rate (2010, per 100,000)

387.2

177.8

459.9

Jail Population (2005)

14,304

7,023

17,567

Incarcerated Population (2005)

36,024

15,897

42,617

Total Incarceration Rate (2005, per 100,000)

651.7

310.1

680.1

Probation Population (2009)

47,421

121,446

130,207

Parole/Extended Supervision Population (2009)

19,344

5,453

10,527

Total Supervised Population (2005)

120,604

145,805

167,872

Supervision Rate (2005, per 100,000)

2,182

2,844

2,679

Incarcerated, as Percentage of Supervised Population (2005)

30%

11%

15%

Corrections Budget (2009, $mm)

$1,265

$521

$753

Per Capita Corrections (2009)

$233.70

$98.93

$117.23

Violent Crime (2010)

14,142

12,515

20,389

Violent Crime Rate (2010, per 100,000)

249

236

315

Property Crime (2010)

142,612

136,431

197,260

Property Crime Rate (2010, per 100,000)

2,508

2,572

3,042

Homicide (2010)

155

96

292

Homicide Rate (2010, per 100,000)

2.7

1.8

4.5

White Incarceration Rate (2005 data, per 100,000)

415

212

463

Black Incarceration Rate

4416

1937

2526

Black Incarceration Rate as Multiple of White

10.6

9.1

5.5

Juveniles in Detention (2006)

849

960

1,731

Admissions to Treatment Facilities for Drug and Alcohol Abuse (2010)

29,358

50,830

24,054