St. Paul, Minn.— Today, State Senator and Senate Judiciary Chair Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) announced a comprehensive legislative package aimed at reducing Minnesota’s prison population and ensuring a fairer criminal justice system. This comes after several meetings of the Prison Population Task Force, which brought together a bipartisan group of legislators and stakeholders to address the prison population issue.
While overall crime is down, Minnesota is incarcerating a record number of people. This has led to prisoners being housed in local jails – giving rise to safety concerns for both staff and prisoners – has adversely impacted the Department of Corrections ability to provide adequate rehabilitative services to inmates, and is creating a significant financial burden on the state. Sen. Latz’s proposal contains several pieces of legislation that addresses these concerns. They include:
- Fund the governor’s bonding request to increase the Challenge Incarceration Program at MCF-Togo and MCF Willow River.
- Funding to increase capacity at MCF Lino Lakes and require that those beds be dedicated to mental health and chemical dependency (CD) treatment.
- Appropriate money to expand the EMPLOY program which helps released offenders find employment.
- Appropriate money for increased mental health and CD treatment services.
- Appropriate money for re-entry programs that link offenders with services in the community to help them successfully rejoin their families and communities.
- Take no legislative action on the proposed Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission changes to the sentencing grid in order to allow the changes to take effect.
Senator Latz said the reform package will move Minnesota toward national sentencing norms while better using our corrections system to rehabilitate our fellow citizens and still maintaining public safety. “Minnesota’s criminal justice system is at a crossroads. We must stop seeing offenders as numbers and recognize that nearly all of them will eventually return to our communities as neighbors and family members.”
Senator Latz continued, “This prison population reform initiative benefits our entire community. It helps those who have been incarcerated to successfully rebuild their lives and become productive citizens, while saving tax payers millions of dollars by reducing recidivism rather than building and maintaining expensive prisons. I would also like to take this opportunity to address the conversation regarding the possible lease or purchase by the state of the private prison in Appleton. Those proposals are non-starters. Besides the immense cost to the state of entering into an agreement with the owners of this private facility, we should not be using prisoners as an economic driver. We should be looking at the cost savings to the state by rehabilitating inmates rather than warehousing them.”
Sen. Latz can be reached at www.senate.mn/senatorlatzemail or 651-297-8065