Between 1981 and 1983, Minnesota's criminal justice system showed increases in prosecutions, convictions, and incarcerations in jails and prisons.
Half the convictions involved jail terms, although the average incarceration length dropped from 4.5 months to 3.8 months. Minorities were overrepresented both in the prosecution of felonies and in incarceration. Convicted felony offenders used almost half of the State's jail capacity. A change in the law in 1982 brought an increase in the prosecutions for reported drunk driving offenses. Sentencing guidelines have reduced disparity in prison sentences, but the State lacks a clear philosophy or guidelines on the use of jails. Only 15 percent of felony case convictions result in a prison sentence. Wide variations exist in the lengths of jail terms. Minority overrepresentation in jail and prisons results in part from the discretionary imposition of prison sentences for gun crimes. A further problem with sentencing in the State is the lack of complete agreement between sentencing guidelines and sentencing laws. In addition, the traditional distinction between felonies and midemeanors has lost some of its importance in determining the seriousness of the crime and the severity of the punishment. The State's data collection system also needs improvement. Figures, tables, charts, and texts of laws.