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RELEASE: House DFLers work to advance reforms to Minnesota’s corrections system

Saturday, May 08, 2021

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Saturday, the House/Senate Conference Committee on the Public Safety & Judiciary budget discussed proposed reforms to the state’s corrections system. House DFLers on the committee presented well-crafted proposals to protect the safety of those in our state prisons and jails, to improve probation terms that can help those serving time to better their lives, and to stop practices that traumatize young people in our juvenile justice systems. Lawmakers heard from people who’ve lost loved ones in Minnesota jails as they considered proposals to improve safety within facilities.

“Everyone who enters a correction facility deserves to be safe and should have hope that as they re-enter society, they can be a successful, contributing member of their community. Today, we heard how our systems are falling short of those objectives,” said Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL – Saint Paul), Chair of the House Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform Committee. “We have the capacity to build a corrections system that both delivers the accountability that comes with wrongdoing, while recognizing the humanity and worth within each and every person.”

Commissioner Paul Schnell and other officials from the Minnesota Department of Corrections provided testimony on the budget proposals, including Deputy Commissioner Curtis Shanklin who discussed the importance of juvenile justice reforms. The committee discussed the Minnesota Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act, a proposed new sentencing approach allowing those incarcerated to earn early release by successfully completing goals within an Individualized Rehabilitation Plan. Lawmakers also discussed proposed reforms to how technical violations can best be handled for individuals on probation and new regulations regarding the use of jailhouse witnesses. 

Much of the hearing was then devoted to the Hardel Sherrell Act, named after a young man who died in the Beltrami County Jail in 2018 after immediate medical needs went ignored. Sherrell’s mother, Del Shea Perry, testified in support of the bill. Brett Huber, Sr. – whose son also died in the Todd County Jail in 2017 after falsified accounts of his well-being were repeatedly reported even as he suffered from bipolar episodes that led to his suicide – provided written testimony to the committee. The measure would improve safety for inmates in state and local correctional facilities by establishing standards regarding mental health, suicide prevention, medication administration and discharge planning. The bill would also clarify requirements for inspection of facilities, improve reporting requirements regarding deaths and update a 115-year-old standard on the use of force by guards.

In an effort to move closer to a final agreement on the budget legislation, House DFLers put forth an offer containing the following corrections-related proposals, including their original bill numbers and chief authors:

  • The Healthy Start Act (HF 1403, Becker-Finn)
  • The Minnesota Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act (HF 2349, Becker-Finn)
  • The Hardel Sherrell Act (HF 1267, Long)
  • Modifications to the Treatment of Juveniles in the Delinquency Process (HF 947, Pinto)
  • Modifications to Juvenile Detention and Court Proceedings (HF 922, Long)
  • Jailhouse Witness Regulations (HF 992, Long)
  • Probation Violation Reform (HF 1761, Hollins)
  • DOC ID Cards and Reentry Support (HF 553, Koegel)
  • Correctional Supervision Working Group; Tribal Governments (HF 1641, Becker-Finn)
  • Prosecutor-Initiated Sentence Adjustment (HF 901, Moller)

More information about the budget proposals is available on the conference committee’s webpage. Video of the hearing will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.