Wisconsin Spends an Increasing Amount of Its Money on Corrections

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 8:21 PM by

A new analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project shows that Wisconsin is spending a greater share of its scarce revenue on corrections. The analysis also notes that Wisconsin spends far more than neighboring states on corrections, despite having similar violent crime rate. The result is that Wisconsin has fewer resources to invest in promoting the well-being of our communities.

State GPR spending on corrections increased over 9% between 2001 and 2010 in inflation-adjusted terms, while spending on other programs decreased by over 7%.

Our neighbors Minnesota and Iowa spend far less on corrections than Wisconsin does on a per capita basis, as shown in the chart below. State and local governments here spent 47 percent more on corrections in 2008 than was spent in Minnesota, and 75 percent more than in Iowa.

One of the main reasons Wisconsin spends more per capita on corrections than our neighboring states is that Wisconsin imprisons more people per capita than all of its neighbors except Michigan. Wisconsin’s violent crime rate is similar to Minnesota’s, yet Wisconsin imprisons 369 people per 100,000 residents, nearly twice Minnesota’s rate of 189 people per 100,000.

These spending decisions have repercussions for everybody in the state. By paying to lock up so many people, Wisconsin is limiting the funds available for critical investments like education and local public services. And we’re not getting much in return for this spending — our communities are no safer than those in states that spend much less on corrections.

The new Budget Project issue brief, “Increasing Share of Scarce Resources Spent on Corrections,” is available on the Wisconsin Budget Project website.

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