The governor has laid out his funding plans for the Department of Corrections and Public Safety, as well as the Judiciary Department; they include across the board funding increases. The courts in particular have seen stagnant wages and have had trouble retaining and recruiting skilled workers. The court system is going to see many retirements in the coming years, and administrators are worried that they will have trouble attracting new employees due to the below market average pay.
The Board of Public Defense will see a budget increase of nearly $16 million. In 2010, a report stated that the “high public defender workloads have created significant challenges for Minnesota’s criminal justice system.” The additional funding will go toward hiring more attorneys, ensuring all Minnesotans have equal representation in the courts.
The Department of Corrections is looking at a budget of over a billion dollars for the first time in several years. Minnesota ranks among the lowest states in the nation in regards to corrections spending, and also has one of the lowest incarceration rates. Additional funding for the department will go toward technology upgrades, a transition to a state-run food service provider and to stave off layoffs which the department had said were unavoidable without a funding increase. Community corrections will also see an increase in pass-through money from the state for county probation officers.
The governor has also requested a small budget increase of $3.6 million for the Department of Public Safety. New funding will help in the replacement of electronic fingerprint readers reaching the end of their life cycle, technology improvements at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s forensic lab, and cover costs related to labor contracts and the delivery of agency services.