Criminal Justice Reform in Minnesota

Problem

While Minnesota has a very small prison population, it has still seen some of the sharpest prison population growth in the last 15 years. Higher prison populations result in a need for new prison facilities to provide more room. Thus, unless taxpayers are willing to spend more on these new facilities, Minnesota needs to reform its system.

Solution

  • In 2016, Minnesota passed a bill which placed greater emphasis on rehabilitation and eliminated mandatory minimums for low-level drug cases.
  • In 2017 Minnesota passed a reform that allowed co-owners of motor vehicles to have a day in court.
  • In late 2019, a reform bill was introduced in Minnesota which would limit the use of cash bail for misdemeanor charges. The court would not be allowed to force the financial condition of release so as to make the individual stay in jail longer than needed. If the individual stays in custody longer than 48 hours due to the financial conditions of release then the court must review the conditions of release.

Results

Following in the footsteps of other states that have undergone similar criminal justice reforms, Minnesota has seen a reduction in its prison population. The rehabilitation programs established in 2016 provided an alternative for offenders convicted of drug use which opened up more space within the prisons for violent offenders. Minnesota has seen an increase in available prison beds despite the increase in drug convictions overall. When we compare convictions prior to the drug sentencing reform act in 2016 to post reform, there is a greater participation rate in community-based programs than an imprisonment rate for non-violent drug charges.

Identification of legislation should not be considered an endorsement of support of, or opposition to, such bills.