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POCI Caucus Statement on the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Adopting Probation Caps

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

POCI Caucus Statement on the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Adopting Probation Caps

St. Paul, MN – The People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus of the Minnesota Legislature today released the following statement following the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission vote to adopt a five year cap on probation terms:

“We applaud the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission for their action to cap probation terms at 5 years, which will reduce sentencing disparities based on race and geography. For far too long in our state, both the number of individuals sentenced to probation and the length of the terms have exceeded what’s needed to promote deterrence or reduce recidivism.

"The cost of Minnesota’s failure to consistently apply fair and useful probation terms has been particularly harmful to communities of color and to Indigenous communities. These communities already suffer racial disparities in income, wealth and access to opportunities. Long probation terms compound these disparities as those “on paper” are ineligible for expungements, barred from many professions, prevented from living in certain residences and even prevented from voting.

"As state legislators, we know Minnesotans favor probation system reforms. 82 percent of likely Minnesota voters support standardizing probation guidelines, and 61 percent favored a five-year cap on felony probation. This year, bi-partisan legislation was introduced to set a standard probation cap of 5 years and was broadly supported by county attorneys, public defenders, probation officers, civil rights groups, and both conservative and liberal advocacy groups. Unfortunately, we were unable to pass those into law.

“Today’s action, however, affirms to Minnesotans the wisdom of having an autonomous, independent Commission that is indifferent to political influence and willing to act boldly to both advance public safety and rein in a criminal justice system that has some of the highest racial disparities in the nation. Previously, the Commission had often fallen short of its charge to ‘maintain uniformity, proportionality, rationality, and predictability in sentencing.’ The actions taken today fulfills that mission and will make Minnesota a safer, fairer, more just place to live.”

The People of Color & Indigenous (POCI) Caucus includes Reps. Jamie Becker-Finn (42B), Aisha Gomez (62B), Hodan Hassan (62A), Kaohly Her (64A), Mary Kunesh-Podein (41B), Fue Lee (59A), Alice Mann (56B), Carlos Mariani (65B), Rena Moran (65A), Mohamud Noor (60B), Ruth Richardson (52B), Samantha Vang (40B), Jay Xiong (67B), Tou Xiong (53B), and Sens. Melisa Franzen (49), Foung Hawj (67), Jeff Hayden (62), Bobby Joe Champion (59), and Patricia Torres-Ray (63).