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Public safety panel approves $3 million for inmate job training, education programs

Of people incarcerated in Minnesota prisons, 95% will one day be back living in our communities, according to the Department of Corrections.

Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL-Mpls) notes that inmates are much less likely to re-offend if they leave prison with the job skills and education to successfully reintegrate.

“When individuals leave prison … with skills, training, and education, we are all safer,” Noor said.

He sponsors HF4215, which he dubbed “Pathways from Prison to Employment.” It would appropriate $2 million in fiscal year 2023 to the Department of Corrections to fund the education of inmates and to connect them with employment opportunities upon release, and $1 million to expand the department’s work-release program.

Annual ongoing funding for these initiatives would be $3.5 million and $1 million, respectively.

The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee approved the bill 13-5 Thursday and sent it to the House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee.

Studies show that individuals engaged in higher education while in prison, and those with meaningful job opportunities when they are released, are significantly less likely to re-offend and return to prison, said Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell.

The bill would increase the availability of community-based educational programming to individuals during their incarceration, plus help inmates eligible for work release to be placed in transitional housing and pursue a degree with partnering institutions of higher education as they complete their sentences, Schnell said.

The time is right to be investing in these types of programs, Noor said, because newly released inmates with job-ready skill sets can help ease the workforce shortages in all parts of the state.

Sen. Jason Rarick (R-Pine City) sponsors the companion bill, SF4074, which awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

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