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 suspensions, which can create a debt-to-jail trap for many people. The Minnesota Second Chance Coalition joins the Minnesota Asset Building Coalition and a diverse range of stakeholders in supporting the following chances:
- 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.
Reduce Length of Felony Probation Periods
Minnesota courts impose some of the longest probation periods in the county. Effective probation terms can both prevent future crime and foster individual growth for probations. It is important to strike a balance between these competing interests when establishing appropriate probation terms. The Minnesota Second Chance Coalition supports amending Minn. Stat. § 609.135 Subd. 2 to impose a 5-year cap on felony probation for non-sex offenses and an 8-year cap on cases where the sentencing guidelines recommend prison but the court imposes probation.
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.
Second Chance Coalition also supports the following reform efforts:
- As recommended by NAMI Minnesota:
- Increase access to mental health care in the jails and prisons: People with mental illnesses need adequate access to medications and therapy while in jail or in prison. Jails that have appropriate health care staff should be allowed to administer Jarvis orders.
- Reform the use of solitary confinement in the prisons: There should be transparency in how solitary confinement (restrictive housing) is used in the prisons including annual reporting of data on the number of inmates placed in solitary, their ages, length of terms (including consecutively), nature of infractions and incidents of inmates not having at least seven hours a week out of cell.
- Restart the Ombusdman Office: There needs to be an independent body to investigate complaints from jails and the prison, particularly around the delivery (or lack of) mental health care.
- Address competency restoration issues: There are an increasing number of people deemed incompetent to stand trial. There are fewer beds available at state operated programs because of this. An in-depth study of why this is happening along with gathering stakeholders to create solutions is needed.
- Legislation which reviews and revises the changes made to MS 245C.15 (subd. 2,3,4) in 2003 and following which automatically disqualifies employment of a person from any position allowing direct contact with persons receiving services from the license holder or entity identified in section 245C.03.
- Military Veteran Offenders Restorative Justice Act provides veterans whose offense is tied to service to our country, and are willing to comply with a demanding treatment regimen, the ability to avoid conviction.
- Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act: Requires that defendants be informed that collateral consequences may apply to them when charged and before pleading or at the time of sentencing and when released from custody. It requires the state to prepare a list of collateral consequences in one place. Collateral consequences are not in the criminal code but scattered throughout the statutes.
- As recommended by the Minnesota Collaborative Justice Initiative: allow for the automatic suspension or termination, by law, of a child support payment obligation when an obligor is incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized for 180 days or more. Upon release, the child support agency and the courts shall re-establish support payments, if the child is still under the age of 18. The obligations should be based on the parent’s earnings post incarceration. Additionally, as a part of re-entry preparations, obligors should be provided education aimed at non-custodial parents on the topics of child support payments and parenting time. Before release, each obligor should be given information about their child support worker and re-establishing child support payments at a level that is appropriate based on their income post release.