The percentage of people incarcerated in Wyoming prisons who were sentenced in Fremont County has risen almost 5 points over the past decade, according to statistics from the Wyoming Department of Corrections.
In 2012, the WDOC processed a total of 1,839 inmates, including 112 – or 6 percent – who were sentenced in Fremont County, the agency said.
In 2021, the local proportion had risen to 10 percent, with 168 of the WDOC’s 1,685 inmates sentenced in Fremont County that year.
By the end of July 2022, the WDOC said 187 of its 1,742 inmates for the year had been sentenced in Fremont County – or 10.7 percent.
The data shows that Fremont County’s annual felony sentencing totals have risen over the past few years, while the statewide prison population has remained relatively even and even shrunk between 2017 and 2020.
Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun said the statistics likely reflect “more than a dozen separate factors” that can impact local felony sentencing rates.
For example, he pointed out that people convicted of felony intoxicated driving in Wyoming can now be sentenced to up to seven years in prison – up from two previously – and in Fremont County, local officials have made a push to encourage local business owners to officially trespass shoplifters from their properties so harsher penalties can be applied in the case of a repeat offense.
“We’ve (been) prosecuting shoplifters – repeat shoplifters – for burglary based on the fact that they’re trespassed,” LeBrun said. “That’s probably increased (our numbers) a little bit.”
It’s also possible that local police have gotten “better at ferreting out crime,” LeBrun said.
He wasn’t able to share any local data that might reflect an increase in cases coming into his office, but LeBrun said “we’re busy – (and) over the last couple of years in particular we have felt busier.”
The numbers may also have risen in recent years due to “the way that this office prosecutes cases,” LeBrun said.
LeBrun took office in 2015, and he said his “policies … about prosecuting certain types of crimes – violent crimes – (are) probably a little bit different than the previous administration.”
“We try our best to treat crimes, where people are hurt, more severely,” he explained. “If it’s a provable, criminal case, we try to push it and get longer punishments.”
He didn’t have any data to share that might demonstrate the impact of that policy shift or reflect a change in the rate of cases coming into his office that result in felony convictions, but having seen the numbers from the WDOC, LeBrun said he is “inclined” to ask the Fremont County Commission to fund another prosecutor for his agency next year.
The WDOC had no comment on the data.