Minnesota

While Minnesota has one of the lowest incarceration rates, it has one of the fastest growing prison population rates since 2003, despite falling crime rates. Contributing to the growing prison population is the fact that the state has one of the highest rates of people on probation in the country. In many cases, non-violent or low-risk individuals frequently end up in prison for “technical violations,” such as missing a meeting with a probation officer or failing a drug test. Minnesota’s rising prison population will require more correctional beds, forcing the state to spend tens of millions on expansions to facilities.

Recent State Activity

  • Drug sentencing reform: In 2016, the Minnesota Legislature unanimously passed the most significant reforms to the state’s drug laws in almost 30 years. The bill ushered in sweeping changes to sentencing, replacing mandatory minimums for low-level drug crimes and putting a greater focus on treating the causes of addiction.
  • Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform: In 2017, Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation that replaces a Minnesota Supreme Court decision that had barred innocent co-owners of motor vehicles from contesting a forfeiture of that vehicle. Under this new law, innocent co-owners will have their day in court.
  • Justice Reinvestment Fund: The Justice Reinvestment Fund was established to support and assist those convicted of low-level drug offenses to ensure they do not re-offend and return to Minnesota’s prison population. The fund distributes resources to local governments, courts, and non-profit organizations to ensure Minnesotans do not re-enter the criminal justice system. A portion of the savings seen from the passage of the drug sentencing reform act in 2016 and other reforms were allocated to the Justice Reinvestment Fund in the 2017 budget bills.

Polling

JAN polling in April 2016 showed there was practically universal, bipartisan support on three fundamental principles of criminal justice reform:

85% of Minnesotans agree that we should be putting fewer low-risk, non-violent drug users in prison, while increasing mandatory sentencing for violent and gang-related drug dealers. 88% of Minnesotans agree that being tough on crime is not about punishing drug addicts and the mentally ill. Being tough on crime is about putting away hardened and violent criminals who are selling and distributing drugs. 91% of Minnesotans agree that prisons cost Minnesota taxpayers a lot of money, and we should be focused on putting away more of the truly dangerous criminals.

Related News


1. As of January 2017, 9,869 people were serving time in prison; about 20% of those incarcerated were there for drug offenses. Minnesota Department of Corrections: Adult Inmate Profile, Retrieved June 29, 2017, https://mn.gov/doc/assets/Minnesota_Department_of_Corrections_Adult_Inmate_Profile_2017_January_tcm1089-293331.pdf
2. 36% of prison admissions in 2016 were release returns without a new sentence. Minnesota Department of Corrections: Adult Inmate Profile, Retrieved June 29, 2017, https://mn.gov/doc/assets/Minnesota_Department_of_Corrections_Adult_Inmate_Profile_2017_January_tcm1089-293331.pdf
3. Average daily cost per inmate: $91.57. Notable Statistics: Minnesota Department of Corrections, Retrieved June 29, 2017, https://mn.gov/doc/assets/Notable%20Statistics%20July%202016_tcm1089-294242.pdf
4. As of the end of 2015, the number of people on probation or parole was 105,100, the fifth-highest per capita rate in the nation. Bureau of Justice Statistics: Correctional Populations in the United States, 2015, Retrieved June 29, 2017, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpus15.pdf
5. In 2016, the statewide recidivism rate was 34%. Minnesota Department of Corrections Statewide Initiative to Reduce Recidivism, Retrieved June 29, 2017, https://mn.gov/doc/assets/MNSIRR_Fact_Sheet_Jan2016_tcm1089-275816.pdf
6. Minnesota crime is at a 50-year low. So why are we imprisoning more people than ever?, Retrieved June 29, 2017, https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2015/06/minnesota-crime-50-year-low-so-why-are-we-imprisoning-more-people-ever