Legislative Priorities

The Minnesota Second Chance Coalition advocates for effective, just, and responsible laws, policies, and practices to ensure that individuals who have been involved in the justice system have meaningful second chances, so that everyone has a path to achieve self-sufficiency and an opportunity to contribute to their communities to their full potential, and so that system-involved youth are not limited in their ability to become successful adults.

Are you a legislator, candidate, organization, or individual interested in connecting about state policies? Contact Lindsay Turner (she/her), Legislative Affairs Committee Chair at lindsayturner@mnsecondchance.org

Prosecutor Initiated Re-Sentencing

Research shows that prison sentences that are too long harm those incarcerated, increase risks to public safety, and waste tax dollars. Research also shows that 4 in 10 people in prison are there with no public safety rationale. Second Chance Coalition supports legislation that would allow prosecutors address these failings by creating a way for prosecutors to review past convictions and return to court to argue for shorter sentences, where warranted.

Reduce the Impact of Fines and Fees

Fines and fees from traffic and low level criminal violations strip assets from low income communities, especially communities of color. Individuals who lack the liquid assets to pay a ticket in full and on time experience an escalation of consequences, including late fees, collection fees, and driver’s license suspension, which can create a debt trap that may take years to escape. Second Chance Coalition joins a diverse range of stakeholders in supporting the following changes:

  • In cases of financial hardship, allow judges to waive the $75 surcharge on traffic and criminal violations or offer community service;
  • Require judges to consider Ability to Pay factors such as income and dependents before setting the amount of a fine;
  • Stop suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic tickets and other violations that don’t impact public safety.

Primary Caregiver Consideration

One child out of every six in Minnesota has experienced the incarceration of one of their parents; there likely is a larger percentage of Minnesota youth who has experienced the incarceration of a non-parental caregiver. The burdens of caregiver incarceration include family destabilization, financial hardship, and social stigma, and increase the risk that a child struggles in school, struggles with their mental health, or becomes homeless or youth system involved. We support the Primary Caregiver Bill that increases judges’ discretion to order community alternatives to incarceration for eligible primary caregivers. These alternatives allow eligible individuals to deal with the consequences of their convictions while also healing, advancing their lives, and continuing to care for their child(ren).

End Life Without Parole for Youth

The United States is the only nation that sentences people to die in prison for crimes committed before turning 18 years old. At the end of 2016, there were 2,310 people nationwide serving life-without-parole sentences for crimes committed before they could vote, buy cigarettes, or join the military. In 2017, the United States Supreme Court rendered invalid all youth life-without-parole sentences imposed by mandatory statute. While Minnesota has no laws that require someone to be sentenced to die in prison for a crime committed before turning 18 years old, it does still have laws that allow for such death-in-prison sentences. We support legislation that abolishes the possibility of life-without-parole sentences for crimes committed before the age of 18.

Second Chance Coalition also supports the following reform efforts:

  • Restore the Vote - Contrary to widespread belief, Minnesotans do not regain the right to vote when they've finished serving their prison time. Only once they've finished lengthy periods of supervision, often decades in duration, can they participate in our democracy and teach their children civic responsibility. The Minnesota Second Chance Coalition believes that people working and paying taxes in their communities should be able to vote for their elected officials.

  • Youth Justice Reform - We support youth justice reform, in partnership with the MN Coalition for Youth Justice. Reforms include eliminating public hearings and records for youth ages 16 and 17 charged with a felony, modifying the background study disqualifications at the Department of Human Services, raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 10 years old to 13 years old, and prohibiting the indiscriminate shackling of youth.

  • Pardon Board Reform - Minnesotans who have complied with the punitive consequences of their conviction still face legal discrimination that prevents them from achieving their full potential. Some discrimination is required. For example, many types of convictions bar Minnesotans from getting loans for school or getting licensed to cut hair. Easy access to simple arrest records -- even if someone is never charged nor convicted -- make it much more likely that someone who is arrested struggles to find legal employment or an apartment to rent. Yet, just a handful of Minnesotans apply to receive pardons or commutations that would stop this type of discrimination. In 2017, there were more than 110,000 Minnesotans on probation or in prison. That same year, there were 84 applications for a pardon, and just 13 applications were successful. We support reforms that make the pardon process more accessible, transparent, and expedient.

  • Felony Murder Law Reform - In Minnesota, a person can be convicted of committing murder if they were involved in other criminal behavior during the incident, but did not kill anyone. This means that people are punished for murder when they advanced a robbery, or drove a getaway car. We support Felony Murder Law Reform so that people can no longer be punished for a crime they did not commit. Find out more at fmlr.org.