Each year, a joint House-Senate Subcommittee on Claims decides which claims against the state it should fund.
This year's controversial bill calls for $109,865 in payments in fiscal year 2022.
The largest part of this year’s bill is $108,684.65 to Nicholas Peterson who sought relief under the Imprisonment and Exoneration Remedies Act which provides a compensation process for cases where a person was exonerated of a felony for which they were wrongfully incarcerated.
According to a bill summary: “Mr. Peterson plead guilty and was convicted of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person. The Minnesota Supreme Court held in another case that the BB gun Mr. Peterson possessed was not a firearm for purposes of the statute that he was convicted under. The claimant’s conviction was vacated. Mr. Peterson served 572 days in prison and 220 days on supervised release.”
The other $1,180.63 is for sentence-to-service and community work service claims under $7,000 and other claims already paid out by the Corrections Department.
Four other awards for injuries served while performing duties at a state correctional facility — totaling $138,491 — were endorsed by the claims subcommittee; however, Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-North Branch) raised concern during Monday’s floor session that one award would go to a man serving time for sexually assaulting an infant. That inmate sustained permanent back injuries as a result of stepping in a hole while mowing.
“Do you think it is appropriate that we are paying taxpayer money out to a monster like this?” Neu Brindley said.
During Wednesday’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) said never before has the issue of why someone is incarcerated played a role in determining if they should be eligible for compensation for being hurt while performing duties behind bars.
“What we have here is yet another example of what is the right decision to make and what sounds like the right decision to make,” he said. “... If we are going to now be doing background checks on those who have been wronged by the state or entitled to compensation then maybe this is a responsibility the Legislature should no longer have, that maybe we need to have to have a different claims process for these items.”
Of the other three cases, one inmate lost three fingers when cut by a beam saw, one lost part of a finger when it was crushed by a grommet machine, and the third sustained permanent brain injuries. Each request will be re-reviewed in the interim.