Minnesota prison population rate second-lowest in nation

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Minnesota had the nation's second-lowest prison population rate in 2012, according to a new report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Justice.

A report summary indicates that Maine had the lowest rate of imprisonment with 145 per 100,000 residents. Minnesota had the next-lowest rate: 184 per 100,000 residents. Rhode Island was third-lowest (190 per 100,000).

States with the highest rates: Louisiana (893 per 100,000 state residents), Mississippi (717 per 100,000), Alabama (650 per 100,000), Oklahoma (648 per 100,000), and Texas (601 per 100,000).

The number of people imprisoned in Minnesota has remained relatively flat over the last several years, at roughly 9,450, the Associated Press notes. Here's more data on Minnesota's prison population.

Nationwide, the prison population dipped 1.7 percent (by 27,770 inmates) from 2011 to 2012, falling to an estimated 1,571,013 prisoners, the report notes. It was the third consecutive year of decline.

The Justice Department on Thursday also unveiled a new tool designed to let people easily search prison statistics from 1978 through 2011.

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