In Governor Walz’s revised budget, the Minnesota Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act was included – an act that would expand the types of rehabilitative programs prison inmates receive and allow inmates to earn early release upon completing certain objectives in those programs. The State Corrections System has been steadily working away from a punishment model toward a rehabilitation model for many years now. In the state House, Representative Jamie Becker-Finn has introduced the bill (HF 2349) that “would take a significant step in that direction.” Senator Ron Latz, DFL Lead on the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee authored the companion Senate File 2295 bill and is seeking a hearing on it.
“This legislation will be a long-term strategy that will make Minnesota safer by offering even more services to rehabilitate an inmate versus just measuring success by their prison term,” said Senator Latz. “The current law does provide inmates with mental health, vocational, and educational programs, but this legislation would expand that list even further to include appropriate substance abuse treatment programs and sexual offender treatment programming. Creating incentives for inmates to succeed in their programming and rewarding them for the success will improve outcomes – and that makes us all safer when they return to the community.”
According to Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell, 95 percent of inmates in state prisons will eventually be released back into the community. Public safety is increased if they leave with as many tools as possible to help them succeed and avoid returning.
Once the act is fully implemented, Commissioner Schnell said “Minnesota has the potential to commit up to $10 million each year to the Justice Reinvestment Fund established by the Legislature in 2016.”
An example of this kind of incentive-based programming is the current Challenge Incarceration Program. After participating in it, 35 percent of inmates were less likely to be re-incarcerated for a new crime and 32 percent were less likely to reoffend with a felony conviction. Additionally, Minnesota spent on average, $4,600 less per participant annually on incarceration costs.