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Minnesota Legislature

Bill aims to ensure constitutional rights of county jail inmates

When county jails are inspected by the Department of Corrections, they should be graded on their policies and programs “that preserve and protect the constitutional rights of inmates and provide adequately for inmate health and wellness.”

That language is from HF3061, sponsored by Rep. Fue Lee (DFL-Mpls), who said he is carrying the bill because a constituent said a relative was forcibly injected with an unknown medication while in the Sherburne County jail.

HF3061, as amended by a delete-all amendment, was approved by the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division on a 9-5 party-line vote Thursday and sent to the House Government Operations Committee. The companion, SF2972, is sponsored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls) and awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

Lee told the public safety division that a description of that medical injection and other “inhumane treatments” at the Sherburne County jail were presented when the bill was heard last month by the House Subcommittee on Local Government.

The bill would also require county sheriffs to ensure the constitutional rights of inmates “regardless of the grounds for which an inmate is detained or the government authority that ordered the inmate detained.”

That provision caused the discussion to sometimes stray from the narrow topic of the bill and enter into the sensitive topic of federal immigration policy and enforcement.

The division adopted an amendment to the delete-all amendment, offered by Rep. Brian Johnson (R-Cambridge), which would require the Corrections Department to also evaluate state prisons on their processes and policies to protect the constitutional rights of prison inmates.

Johnson said he was moved to offer his amendment because a recent report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor found persistent problems in the state’s 11 prisons.


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