By Becky Nahm
A new survey says when it comes to repeat offenders, Minnesota is worst in the nation.
But the state says hold on. Department of Corrections officials say the numbers in the survey are not right. They say the survey counted some offenders twice.
The survey (PDF) was conducted by the Pew Center on the States, a non-partisan research organization.
It shows 61 percent of offenders released in Minnesota in 2004 were sent back to prison by 2007. The rate of 61 percent was the highest rate of recidivism in the nation.
Corrections officials say the numbers are skewed.
Grant Duwe, the Minnesota Department of Corrections Research Director, said, "They reported that Minnesota has a 61 percent return to prison rate when instead it's actually around 51 percent."
Duwe says the Pew Center counted up convicts who returned to prison for committing a new crime. Which totaled about 36 percent. It also counted the number who ended up back behind bars for violating a condition of their release. That number was about 26 percent.
Then the Pew Center added those two groups together, when in some cases one person fell into both groups.
Duwe said, "Instead of those offenders just being counted once, who had both types of recidivism events, they counted them twice."
The other issue is Minnesota's relatively small prison population. With around 9,000 inmates, Minnesota has the second to lowest rate of incarceration in the country.
Duwe said, "We reserve prison beds only for the most serious offenders."
Officials say those high-risk offenders are more likely to re-offend.
The state's own numbers actually show a 5 percent drop in recidivism rates from 2004 to 2007.
The department's Director of Victims Assistance and Restorative Justice Programs Lydia Newlin said, "Today's study will be different from tomorrow's. What I look at is the individual behavior that offenders have."
The Department of Corrections tracks programs designed to prevent prisoners from re-offending, like drug and sex offender treatment programs and employment programs. Officials believe the programs are working.
In a news release, Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy said the department will ask the Pew Center for a correction.
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