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Wyoming State Penitentiary

The Wyoming State Penitentiary is shown in 2016 in Rawlins. Wyoming's prison population rose again, according to new statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Wyoming’s prison population was the third-fastest growing in the country at the end of 2017, according to a government report released last week.

The report, which was authored by two U.S. Department of Justice statisticians and released Thursday, states that Wyoming’s prison population grew by 4.2 percent between the year-ends of 2016 and 2017. The Cowboy State was outpaced only by Utah, where the incarceration rate grew by 4.3 percent, and Idaho, where the rate grew by 5.1 percent. The three states topping the list were also the only Mountain West states with notable increases.

The report indicates the continuation of a trend a 2018 Star-Tribune analysis noted began more than a decade ago — Wyoming prison population rates as a percentage of the state’s total population grow while national numbers drop. Nationwide, 390 per 100,000 people were locked in state prisons by the end of 2017 across the country. That number was down 7 from the year prior.

In Wyoming, however, 429 people per 100,000 were in corrections department custody at year’s end, up more than 20 per 100,000 compared to the prior year.

Because the report analyzes prison populations on the basis of supervising authority, rather than physical location, Wyoming Department of Corrections prisoners held in a Mississippi private prison for space reasons, are included in the total the report attributes to Wyoming. The report indicates Wyoming’s prison population increase was the result of both an increase in newly incarcerated people and a decrease in people released from prison. About 80 percent of people released from Wyoming prisons were let out on “probation, supervised mandatory releases, and other unspecified” terms.

On a state-by-state basis, Wyoming is also in the minority. Twenty-nine states saw their prison populations decrease over the course of the year and in one, Maine, the population did not change.

Of the Mountain West’s other five states, New Mexico did not report figures to the Department of Justice, while Nevada and Colorado saw changes of 0.2 percent. In Arizona, the number of people incarcerated dropped by 1.4 percent and in Montana, 3 percent.

In Wyoming, as with every state in the country, male prison populations dwarf the number of incarcerated women. There about 7 times more men than women in Wyoming prisons. Nationwide, that number is about 12. Wyoming’s prison population growth likewise nearly all took place in men’s facilities.

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Follow crime reporter Shane Sanderson on Twitter @shanersanderson

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Crime and Courts Reporter

Shane Sanderson is a Star-Tribune reporter who primarily covers criminal justice. Sanderson is a proud University of Missouri graduate. Lately, he’s been reading Cormac McCarthy and cooking Italian food. He writes about his own life in his free time.

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