Sentencing Guidelines Commission issues 2024 Report to the Legislature

The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission released its annual Report to the Legislature last week. The 2024 report is 123 pages and reports on 2022 trends in state sentencing and 2023 changes to the guidelines. 

The staff at the commission do an admirable job pulling this information together and reporting it in a relatively easy to read report. The report is a valuable reference document for those interested in how our criminal justice system is performing.


  • Minnesota’s imprisonment rate stood at 151/100,000. This is the 7th lowest imprisonment rate among the 50 states and equals Minnesota’s rate in 2002. 
  • There were a record 16,259 felony case sentences — up from 11,519 in 2021.
  • 6,248 (38.4%) of these cases fell in the category of a presumptive prison sentence.
  • 4,159 (25.6%) of these cases received an actual prison sentence.
  • 36% of those incarcerated in the state were convicted in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties
  • Average duration of prison sentences dropped from 54 months to 49.4 months in 2022.
  • The rate of downward dispositional departures (sentenced to prison or not) decreased to 39.4%, down from a record 45.7% in 2021. 39.4% is still higher than the departure rate for the first 38 years of the guideline’s existence.
  • 55% of aggravated assault sentences and 50% of simple robbery sentences received downward dispositional departures — meaning the prison sentence was stayed, when the guidelines called for a prison sentence.
  • While judges departed downward on disposition 2,459 times in 2022, they departed upward (aggravated) just 17 times.
  • The rate of downward durational departures (length of sentence) was 19.7%, though Hennepin and Ramsey county’s rates were at 35.2% and 38.7% respectively, nearly twice the rate of the rest of the state.
  • 31% of aggravated robbery cases received a downward durational departure, and the prosecutor on those cases objected to the departure in just 3% of the cases.
  • Despite record numbers of motor vehicle thefts in Minnesota, 28% of these cases received a downward durational departure, and not a single prosecutor objected to the downward departure.
  •  While judges departed downward durationally 821 times in 2022, they departed upward (aggravated) just 89 times.
  • There were a record number of cases involving an offense committed with a firearm — 1,805 in 2023, up from 1,587 in 2022 and 636 just 15 years earlier. Despite this rise in the use of firearms in the commission of a crime, which carry mandatory minimum sentencing, only 30% (545) ended up with a conviction and a mandatory minimum sentence.  48% of these cases were either not charged, dismissed, or the mandatory minimum sentence was waived.


The 2022 sentencing data in Minnesota remained rather disappointing, especially regarding downward departures.

The Sentencing Guidelines Commission is beginning a multiyear comprehensive review of the guidelines. The commission has stated the goals of the revised guidelines are to: 1) Improve public safety, 2) Improve consistency, and 3) Decrease disparities.

The commission should not to infer that judicial departures are representative of errors in the guidelines. If anything, in a state with some of the lowest incarceration rates in the country, our sentencing guidelines should be more punitive, not less.