The Casper Star-Tribune asked some interesting questions: "In 1980, the state of Wyoming incarcerated 114 people for every 100,00 residents. By 2016, that number had grown to 407. During the same period, reported crime in the state dropped by nearly half and sentence lengths have grown. So why, if crime is down, have prison populations nearly quadrupled?" Along with, "Why are these problems happening?" and "Are we doing enough to address them?" Good questions all around, but I found the first one to be the crux of the whole article, therefore I shall endeavor to enlighten the Star-Tribune Editorial Board.
A long ago, there was a governor named Jim Geringer who ran on the platform, "hard on crime." With this plan, he developed the Department of Corrections and installed Judy Uphoff as director; together they formed the idea that the state of Wyoming needed to be the flagship in the prison system across the United States. With this in mind, they convinced the judges at a judicial conference that what was most important was being tough on crime, and to do this they had to give out longer sentences.
On top of this, Governor Geringer didn't sign but a few commutations, and this held through to the next governor: Freudenthal. And so far is has held for Governor Mead. I don't have a complete list of how many commutations have been signed by them all but I would bet it's less than 100 in 12 years.
So, right now Wyoming has one of the oldest inmate populations in the nation with the average age of 46. This means that as time progresses the cost of keeping these old men in prison is going to increase by leaps and bounds. Can you imagine a prison old folks home? Because that's what you're heading for.All of us understand that we have to be punished and if dying in prison is what it's going to take you to feel that justice has been served, then you need to start building more penitentiaries. It's too bad that there's no grace in the state of Wyoming. Just punishment.