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‘Game-changing’ proposition would provide for early release of rehabilitated inmates

Inmates who make sufficient progress toward rehabilitation could have their sentences reduced by up to 17%.

Such is the gist of a bill that would further shift the focus from how much time people spend in prison to how they spend their time, said Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell.

He spoke in support of HF1319 that would establish the Minnesota Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act. It would require the department to develop a personalized rehabilitation plan for every inmate, including substance abuse treatment programs, sexual offender treatment programming, medical and mental health services, and vocational, employment and career, educational, and other rehabilitative programs.

“We believe that this is really a game-changing proposition,” Schnell said.

Sponsored by Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville) the bill was approved, as amended, Thursday by the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee and sent to the House Ways and Means Committee.

She said the “warehousing” of inmates – locking them up and giving them nothing to do – is a wasted opportunity that does nothing to reduce the recidivism rate, noting that the five-year rearrest rate has remained at nearly 80% for decades. “We know that the current system isn’t working and isn’t serving our constituents to the best that it can.”

Minnesota is one of only 12 states without an earned release policy, according to the Department of Corrections.

Individuals serving life sentences would not be eligible for early release, and victims would have the opportunity to express their concerns to the department on an inmate’s potential early release.

“Accountability solely based on incarceration without changed behavior does not keep victims and communities safe,” said Shenika Chambers, policy program manager at Violence Free Minnesota. “Victim safety is actually enhanced with good criminal legal system reform.”

An annual report on the program would be due to the Legislature on the effectiveness of early inmate releases under the act.


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