Are the state’s controlled substances laws too tough? Are there people behind bars who might thrive with a lesser sentence, such as probation, for their crimes?
Those were two of the questions discussed Wednesday at the third meeting of the Prison Population Task Force.
Co-chaired by Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) and Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park), the group hopes to help craft recommendations for the 2016 legislative session to deal with prison overcrowding.
On July 1, 2015, the state housed 10,119 inmates, 560 more than capacity. The gap is forecast to exceed 1,200 inmates by 2022 if everything stays the same in terms of statutes and sentencing. To help with the current situation, the Department of Corrections now leases 500 beds at county jails.
Wednesday’s agenda included a presentation from the Sentencing Guidelines Commission and a discussion on the background of drug sentencing laws.
Also discussed, but not acted upon, was a bill sponsored by Rep. Jerry Hertaus (R-Greenfield) and Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville).
SF773 would address controlled substance crimes “by lowering certain threshold amounts, eliminating minimum sentences, expanding the nonviolent controlled substance offender conditional release program, making the stay of adjudication law for low-level offenders mandatory, and directing that savings from these changes be used for treatment and educational programs.”
The bills await action by the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee.