KELO reports that the state officials are studying why South Dakota's incarceration rate is so much higher than the rate in neighboring states. How much higher?

Kaiser State Health Facts: incarceration rate per 100,000 residents, by state, 2010

State Incarceration Rate State Incarceration Rate
Alabama 648 Montana 378
Alaska 340 Nebraska 247
Arizona 572 Nevada 472
Arkansas 552 New Hampshire 209
California 439 New Jersey 286
Colorado 445 New Mexico 323
Connecticut 376 New York 288
Delaware 443 North Carolina 373
Florida 556 North Dakota 226
Georgia 479 Ohio 448
Hawaii 302 Oklahoma 654
Idaho 474 Oregon 361
Illinois 373 Pennsylvania 403
Indiana 434 Rhode Island 197
Iowa 309 South Carolina 495
Kansas 317 South Dakota 416
Kentucky 458 Tennessee 432
Louisiana 867 Texas 648
Maine 148 Utah 238
Maryland 387 Vermont 265
Massachusetts 200 Virginia 468
Michigan 445 Washington 269
Minnesota 185 West Virginia 363
Mississippi 686 Wisconsin 366
Missouri 508 Wyoming 385
United States 497

Glancing at the map, one might be reminded of the map I put up last week finding the Bible Belt the intensely religious region of the nation, with South Dakota following closely and outpacing its neighbors. But I won't posit a correlation between prison-filling and pew-filling yet: notice that gold-tablet-fearing Utah has the seventh-lowest incarceration rate in the nation.

Other prison stats worth noting, from the most recent federal Bureau of Justice Statistics report on the nation's prison population:

  1. Annual growth rate of South Dakota's prison population from 2000 to 2008: 3.1%.
  2. Neighboring states with higher rates: Minnesota (6.0%) and North Dakota (3.8%)
  3. Annual growth rate of U.S. prison population, same period: 1.8%.
  4. Annual growth rate of S.D. general population, 2000-2010: 0.76%.
  5. Annual growth rate of Minn. general population, 2000-2010: 0.75%.
  6. Annual growth rate of U.S. general population, 2000-2010: 0.93%.

South Dakota still imprisons people at a lower rate than the national average. We are 23rd in the nation for incarceration rate... but we have one of the lowest crime rates in the nation. Minnesota has a notably higher crime rate but has the second lowest incarceration rate. North Dakota has a crime rate similar to South Dakota's but the sixth lowest incarceration rate.

South Dakota is thus somewhat of a regional anomaly. I will be eager to hear the state's findings on why South Dakota fills jails faster than its nice prairie neighbors.