2 32 1 40 13 24 8 47 10 31 27 30 18 17 33 6 3 5 14 19 38 15 44 26 41 7 45 28 4 49 25 46 39 16 9 12 37 20 21 23 42 43 35 50 34 22 11 29 36 48
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 18:  Clinton Correctional Facility is seen on June 18, 2015 in Dannemora, New York.  After conducting a manhunt across approximately 10,000 acres for two escaped convicts from Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6, officials announced roads and roadblocks would be reopened on major routes going into Dannemora, where the prison is located. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

(Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Corrections Rankings

Measuring the efficiency of state prison systems

Downtown Des Moines, Iowa with the Pioneers of the Territory statue in the foreground.  The statue was made by Karl Gerhardt in 1892.

Browse Photos of the 50 States

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Corrections is worth one-half of the weight in ranking the Best States for crime & corrections. This subcategory is further broken into five metrics: incarceration rate, juvenile incarceration, racial equality in jailing, three-year recidivism rate and sexual violence in prisons. Corrections, including prisons, parole, juvenile and other programs, cost billions of dollars a year, with state and local spending increasing at triple the rate of public elementary and secondary education funding. The efficiency of a state’s corrections system shows how a state handles crime and public safety.

The two Best States for corrections are New Hampshire and Maine, which both also rank in the top three for safety. New Hampshire also ranks in the top 10 overall, as do Massachusetts and Utah, the fourth and fifth Best States for corrections, respectively. Four of the top 5 Best States for corrections are in New England or the Far West, and Pennsylvania and South Dakota are the worst states for corrections.

Best States for Corrections

Corrections Rank State Equality in Jailing Least Juvenile Incarceration Low Incarceration Rate Low Recidivism Rate Sexual Violence in Prisons
#1 New Hampshire NH 2 7 7 40 25
#2 Maine ME 32 13 1 2 34
#3 Hawaii HI 1 2 12 42 27
#4 Massachusetts MA 40 3 2 21 19
#5 Utah UT 13 19 6 39 4
#6 Tennessee TN 24 11 33 6 22
#7 Texas TX 8 21 44 3 15
#8 New Jersey NJ 47 6 8 16 1
#9 Oklahoma OK 10 14 49 1 2
#10 North Carolina NC 31 4 21 - 28
#11 Virginia VA 27 18 39 5 26
#12 Mississippi MS 30 8 47 9 3
#13 California CA 18 23 18 37 5
#14 Arizona AZ 17 15 46 - 8
#15 Maryland MD 33 10 20 31 17
#16 Idaho ID 6 37 35 19 -
#17 Oregon OR 3 49 26 15 13
#18 Florida FL 5 31 41 7 36
#19 Kentucky KY 14 16 40 - 31
#20 Georgia GA 19 9 42 8 38
#21 South Carolina SC 38 35 32 4 24
#22 New Mexico NM 15 28 19 30 32
#23 New York NY 44 17 11 35 16
#24 Indiana IN 26 40 30 28 9
#25 Ohio OH 41 24 38 13 18
#26 Washington WA 7 20 10 17 47
#27 Illinois IL 45 12 23 36 14
#28 Colorado CO 28 33 24 41 7
#29 Nevada NV 4 39 37 12 41
#30 Minnesota MN 49 32 3 27 12
#31 Alabama AL 25 29 48 18 23
#32 Connecticut CT 46 1 16 45 11
#33 Iowa IA 39 41 14 23 29
#34 Vermont VT 16 5 5 38 48
#35 Wyoming WY 9 50 29 20 30
#36 Alaska AK 12 42 15 46 20
#37 Nebraska NE 37 43 13 14 40
#38 Montana MT 20 30 22 33 44
#39 Arkansas AR 21 27 45 43 10
#40 Kansas KS 23 25 17 26 46
#41 Rhode Island RI 42 45 4 44 6
#42 Michigan MI 43 34 34 11 37
#43 North Dakota ND 35 44 9 24 45
#44 Wisconsin WI 50 26 25 22 35
#45 Louisiana LA 34 36 50 25 21
#46 Missouri MO 22 38 43 34 43
#47 West Virginia WV 11 48 27 10 49
#48 Delaware DE 29 22 36 47 39
#49 South Dakota SD 36 47 31 32 42
#50 Pennsylvania PA 48 46 28 29 33

Equality in Jailing

This metric evaluates the difference in the incarceration rates among non-Hispanic whites and other groups. Although the incarceration rate is declining, black Americans are still far more likely to be imprisoned than whites or Hispanics, particularly black males.

Nationally, groups other than non-Hispanic whites were about 2.3 times as likely to be incarcerated than non-Hispanic whites. In New England, one of the less racially diverse regions of the U.S., other groups were about 3.5 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. In the Southwest, the region with the least racially disproportionate jailing, other groups were still about 1.6 times as likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts.

There was essentially no racial gap in the incarceration rate in 2015 in Hawaii, which is one of the most racially diverse states in the U.S. The gap was the highest in Wisconsin, where other groups were more than 5 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Hispanic whites. Three other Great Lakes states – Illinois, Michigan and Ohio – also ranked in the bottom 10 states for this metric.

Least Juvenile Incarceration

Many minors who commit crimes never enter the juvenile justice system. Still, lawmakers and higher education institutions alike are working toward updating juvenile delinquency policies and creating smoother transitions for those leaving juvenile justice facilities.

This metric measures the incarceration rate of juveniles, ages 15 to 17, per 100,000 in the population in 2015. Because states have different upper age limits to determine if someone should be tried as an adult or as a youth, states with an age limit lower than 17 only include a portion of their juvenile population. For example, when evaluating states with an upper age limit of 16, such as Georgia, only two-thirds of the data were counted. Three of the top 5 states with the lowest juvenile incarceration rates were in New England. Connecticut, where about 18 juveniles per 100,000 were committed, earned the No. 1 slot, while the No. 50 ranking went to Wyoming,, which incarcerated about 250 per every 100,000 juveniles.

Low Incarceration Rate

The incarceration rate has decreased in the U.S. in recent years, and the estimated prison population of 1,505,400 at the end of 2016 was the lowest since 1997. The number of offenders held by state or federal prisons dropped 1 percent – or 21,200 prisoners – between 2015 and 2016. Still, black Americans are far more likely to be imprisoned than whites or Hispanics, particularly black males. In 2014, 18 to 19 year old black males were 10 times more likely to be in state or federal prison than white males in the same age range.

This metric evaluates the number of people incarcerated per 100,000 state residents in 2015. The metric allows for sentences of more than one year in either state or federal prisons. States with a lower incarceration rate were given a higher ranking. Maine, which imprisoned just 132 people per 100,000, ranked first for this metric, while Louisiana, which placed 48th for safety and 50th in the overall Best States rankings, imprisoned the most: 778 were incarcerated per 100,000 people in 2015.

Low Recidivism Rate

A state's recidivism rate – the share of released prisoners who return to the prison system within three years – can help leadership evaluate the effectiveness of its corrections system and public safety policies. This measure is based on the most recently available data from state reports and the U.S. Department of Justice, ranging from prisoners released in 2009 in Maryland to 2014 in Illinois. On average nationally, about one in three released prisoners were back in the prison system within three years. That figure is significantly higher when extended to five years or when broadened to include all arrests.

Oklahoma ranked first for this metric, with a three-year recidivism rate of 21.2 percent, followed by Maine and Texas at 22.4 and 22.6 percent, respectively. Delaware had the highest recidivism rate, with 64.9 percent of offenders back in custody within three years. Alaska, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Arkansas rounded out the bottom five states for recidivism. Regionally, the Southwest and Southeast scored the best for this metric, New England and the Rocky Mountains the worst.

Sexual Violence in Prisons

Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, and the final rule was enacted in 2012, establishing national standards to detect, prevent and punish sexual assault in federal, state and local institutions. While less than half of the states were fully compliant with PREA standards by 2017, all but two – Utah and Arkansas – had committed to adopting the national standards.

PREA also established a way for inmates to report sexual harassment, abuse and assault. This metric measures the number of allegations for every 1,000 inmates in 2015, as reported by each state's corrections department. The measure includes substantiated, unsubstantiated and unfounded reports of inmate-on-inmate and staff-on-inmate sexual harassment and abuse in male and female adult facilities.

Nationally, there were about 16 allegations per 1,000 inmates in 2015. While the actual prevalence of sexual abuse in prisons is likely much higher, shame or fear of retaliation can deter inmates from reporting sexual victimization.

New Jersey scored first for this metric, followed by Oklahoma, each with about three allegations per every 1,000 inmates. No. 50 West Virginia had 65 allegations per 1,000 inmates, the highest rate of any state. Vermont, Washington, Kansas and North Dakota each had more than 40 allegations for every 1,000 inmates, while 15 states had less than 10. Regionally, the Southwest scored the best for this metric, the Great Plains the worst.