SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Division today announced a new budget built on a community–centered approach to public safety. The budget provides a pathway for Minnesotans to move beyond the criminal justice system, delivers justice for crime victims, and holds those who hurt others and hurt communities accountable.
“Through a community-centered approach to public safety, we can deliberately and thoughtfully engage Minnesotans to determine how we can best achieve the results and outcomes from our criminal justice system,” said Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL – Saint Paul), the Division Chair. “All session long we’ve been committed to working together in this fashion, and I’m pleased that we’ve produced a bill that I believe truly re-envisions public safety in this state.”
The budget bill, HF 2792, contains funding for the Departments of Public Safety and Corrections that provides for those on probation to develop the skills to contribute to society and for young people to avoid incarceration. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Sentencing Guidelines Commission, and the Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) Board are also funded.
Minnesota has the fifth-lowest incarceration rate in the nation, but we also have the fifth-highest probation rate. The budget addresses this through reforms such as establishing a five-year probation cap for most offenses, requiring the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission to establish probation guidelines, and funding for the Alternatives to Incarceration grant program to divert nonviolent drug offenders to treatment.
In 2018, two corrections officers tragically lost their lives while working. In response, the House DFL Majority created the first ever Corrections Division to consider improvements within the state’s prisons and ensure everyone, whether working or incarcerated within the walls, is able to go home safely. The budget makes investments to hire new correctional officers in the coming years with 70 in Fiscal Year 2020, 92 in 2021, 105 in 2022 and 110 in 2023. It also reestablishes the Department of Correction’s Ombudsman position to take complaints, conduct investigations, and make recommendations regarding our prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities.
The budget incorporates several gender-based violence prevention measures, including a working group charged with reforming the state criminal sexual conduct statute, elimination of the statute of limitations for criminal sexual conduct, repeal of the marital rape exemption, and the establishment of a task force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Measures to help prevent sexual assault include notice requirements of predatory offender status for home care providers, broadening the definition of “position of authority,” and requiring a pre-sentence family impact statement.
Elements of the committee’s “Responsible on Cannabis” approach are included in the budget, including the establishment of a task force to study the potential legalization, graduated penalties for certain marijuana offenses, decriminalization of cannabidiol (“CBD”), and a study on the impact of driving while under the influence of THC.
The budget includes police officer professional development initiatives, including expansion of the P.O.S.T. Board, requirements for agencies to adopt policies regarding sexual assault cases, penalties for peace officers who have sexual relations with persons in custody, and regulations of law enforcement’s use of drones.
Penalties are either expanded or created for instances such as: those who are found to have caused a deadly crash while using a cellphone behind the wheel, light rail transit operators who are found to be reckless or careless in their duties, and recreational vehicle users who operate them while intoxicated.
Other provisions included within the bill include restoration of voting rights to those who leave prison, the establishment of an Indeterminate Sentence Release Board, and limits on drivers’ license suspensions.
The committee held its first public hearing on the budget Tuesday, and it will be further considered Thursday at 12:45 p.m. in Room 120 of the State Capitol.