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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jamie Long (DFL)

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Legislators announce a new bipartisan, bicameral caucus dedicated to reforming Minnesota's criminal justice system

Monday, March 2, 2020

ST. PAUL, MN — Today, a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of state legislators announced that they are forming a new caucus dedicated to reforming Minnesota’s criminal justice system. Members of the newly-formed Criminal Justice Reform Caucus will work together to reimagine our state’s approach to criminal justice and public safety.

Rep. Jamie Long (DFL – Minneapolis), Rep. John Poston (R – Lake Shore), Sen. Ron Latz (DFL – St. Louis Park), and Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R – Lino Lakes) will serve as co-chairs of the Criminal Justice Reform Caucus.

“Criminal justice reform is an area where we can find common ground,” said Rep. Long. “The old bipartisan consensus centered on harsh punishment, but this stale approach did not make our communities safer and failed to give a second chance to far too many. The new bipartisan consensus recognizes that there are fairer and more effective approaches. I look forward to working together to build a safer and more equitable Minnesota.”

“All across America, in Congress and statehouses alike, we have seen Republicans and Democrats unite to support bipartisan criminal justice reform measures that improve safety in our communities and invest in men and women who want to turn their lives around once they’re released from prison,” said Rep. Poston. “I look forward to building a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers that seeks to improve the justice system in Minnesota.”

"Most of the reform that's going to have a great impact will be at the state level," said Sen. Ron Latz. “The 2016 Drug Sentencing Reform Act, a Minnesota law that passed with bipartisan support, had the goal of reducing the number of nonviolent and lower level drug cases that end up in prison. The law made a number of changes, including adding a new gross misdemeanor category for some first-time offenders. This is one example of how both Democrats and Republicans have joined together in recent years to pass criminal justice reform that works for our state. The creation of the Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, which I am proud to co-chair, aims to continue finding bipartisan solutions to our criminal justice issues in an organized fashion.”

“It is clear there are areas of the criminal justice system that desperately need reform,” said Sen. Chamberlain. “There are folks in jail who don’t need to be. There are folks on parole and probation who don’t need to be. Let’s find some common ground on these issues, work together to fix the system, and improve people’s lives.”

In the past 20 years, polls have showed increased public support for criminal justice reform. Probation reform and other measures that were proposed during the 2019 legislative session had support from members on both sides of the aisle.

Bipartisan caucuses dedicated to criminal justice reform have been successful in other states and at the federal level.