Data analyses focus on the outcome of the processing of Minnesota felons during fiscal 1981, with attention to the outcome for particular crimes, the impact of race and gun use in case outcomes for violent crimes, and factors affecting the incarceration of convicted felons.
In fiscal 1981, about 11,800 adults had felony arrests, with 70 percent being brought to court and 30 percent released without prosecution. Of those prosecuted, 87 percent were convicted and sentenced. Almost half of those convicted were not incarcerated. Murder and robbery convictions were most likely to result in imprisonment for more than 1 year. Blacks arrested for violent crimes were much less likely to be prosecuted than whites or Indians; however, convicted blacks were more likely to be imprisoned than whites, apparently because blacks were significantly more likely to use guns than whites. It is more difficult to rule out the possibility of discrimination in case outcomes for Indians than for blacks. The use of a gun in a crime was the strongest single factor affecting incarceration. The severity of the crime was also important in determining incarceration. The least significant factors in incarceration were race and participation in community corrections, which predisposed a convicted felon toward a prison sentence. Data were not available on criminal histories. Nearly four times as many felony defendants are being incarcerated in jail than in prisons, suggesting that if uniformity and consistency in sentencing is to be achieved in felony cases, then the legislature should consider the feasibility of guidelines for jail incarceration, not just for a prison sentence. Tabular data are provided.