The Wyoming Department of Corrections is proud to have the second lowest recidivism rate in the nation, 38% below the national average. Three out of four offenders released from Wyoming’s prisons stay out. Department of Corrections officials believe their prison education programs are, to a large extent, responsible for their success.
Prison population grows despite low crime rates.
Wyoming’s lawless Wild West days are firmly in the past. The state’s crime rates are well below national averages. Violent crimes are 43% below national rates, and property crimes 22% lower. Burglaries are just half the national average, and robberies a tenth.
As a consequence, the state’s prison population is small at about 2,200. Yet, despite the low crime and impressive re-incarceration rates for released offenders, the prison population has grown by almost a third since 2000. In fact over the decade to 2010, the rate by which Wyoming’s prison population increased was double that for the rest of the country. It now appears to have leveled off.
Funding cuts threaten rehabilitation.
As has happened across the country, funding for public services, including prisons, has been cut. Betty Abbott, Education Programs Manager for the Department of Corrections recognizes that education and programming usually bear the brunt of such cuts. Despite now being underfunded, she must do the best with what is available.
Fortunately, Wyoming’s prison population is better educated than most. While nationally about 40% of state prisoners have neither a high school diploma nor a GED, the majority of Wyoming’s prisoners do have one or the other. Those who do not must take mandatory GED classes. About 20% of current Wyoming inmates obtained their GED while in prison.