Law enforcement and corrections cost Minnesota taxpayers almost $800 million in 1991, a 21 percent rise over the 1985 level, and are expected to continue consuming a growing portion of public resources, reports a new Line Item by Minnesota Planning .
"Minnesotans must anticipate future spending trends," said Governor Arne H. Carlson. "Unless we understand and respond to the forces that will drive spending in the coming years, state and local governments are in danger of lurching from deficit to deficit."
In April 1994, Gov. Carlson asked Minnesota Planning to make a comprehensive examination of government spending. As the study progresses, interesting findings are highlighted in a Line Item series.
Law enforcement and corrections, two components of the justice system, accounted for three-quarters of the state's total justice spending, reported the November Line Item. The bill for courts and other legal services, the third component, was almost $272 million, bringing the system's total to more than $1 billion.
Spending for courts includes both criminal and civil cases. While an exact breakdown of costs cannot be made, it is known that criminal cases make up about a third of judges' workload and all of the public defenders'.
While total expenditures grew 25 percent over the rate of inflation between 1985 and 1991, the number of offenses reported climbed 26 percent, arrests increased by 24 percent, criminal cases filed in court went up 31 percent, the number of inmates in jails and prisons escalated nearly 50 percent and the number of probation cases more than doubled.
Some highlights during the seven-year period were:
1) Both the lengths of recommended sentences and the number of felons sentenced increased.
2) Local governments shouldered nearly three-quarters of the spending for the justice system.
3) Almost half of all system expenditures were for law enforcement.
4) The state took over some courts-related costs to ensure equal justice for all parts of the state.
At the same time, the number of Minnesotans in the age group with the highest rate of arrest for serious crimes -- 10- to 24-year-olds -- shrank by 9 percent. This group, however, is expected to grow by 8 percent between 1991 and 2001.
"Spending for the justice system is growing," said John Hustad, acting director of Minnesota Planning. "Given the budget strains the justice system has caused other states, we need to monitor how fast and how big ours becomes."
In part because of policy changes, criminal justice spending is expected to rise and may even accelerate in coming years. The full impact of longer sentences and the cost savings of prevention programs, for example, have yet to be felt.
The justice Line Item is the fourth in a series, which is part of an eight-month study by Minnesota Planning that will conclude with a final report and recommendations in January 1995.