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 -- makes 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.
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).
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.
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:
MN HF 1679: Eliminating public hearings and records for youth ages 16 and 17 charged with a felony, modify Dept of Human Services background study disqualifications based on juvenile offenses, and raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 10 years old to 13 years old.
MN HF 1678: Prohibiting indiscriminate shackling of youth
As recommended by NAMI Minnesota:
- Require police departments to document how they utilize their training dollars for crisis intervention, including what specific training they used and whether it was evidence-based.
- Fund pilot projects for police departments to connect quickly with mobile crisis teams through tablets and telehealth service.