Aging Prison Population

March 21, 2012

The Problem

Harsher policies and longer prison sentences have led to an increase in the number of elderly adults, those over the age of 50, throughout our nation’s correctional facilities. These inmates are more likely to have health problems because they often come from poor backgrounds, have a greater likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse, and likely had restricted access to health care prior to incarceration. Compared with the younger inmates, older inmates have higher rates of both mild and serious health conditions, such impaired movement, functional disabilities, mental illness, increased risk of major diseases, and a need for assistance with daily living activities. Further, hearing loss, vision problems, arthritis, hypertension, and dementia are much more common among older inmates.

As the number of elderly prisoners increase, so do the number of medical problems and the amount of resources needed to treat such problems. There are currently 1,123 inmates over the age of 50 incarcerated throughout Minnesota. Keeping these inmates behind bars is incredibly expensive. Health care costs for older inmates are much higher than for younger inmates. Current estimates suggest that it costs about $70,000 a year to incarcerate an elderly inmate, whereas younger inmates cost approximately $22,000. States, including Minnesota, are beginning to realize the expensive repercussions of their sentencing practices, and must consider resources carefully during the next few years as the number of elderly prisoners continues to grow and the need to reduce costs of caring for these prisoners becomes absolutely necessary. The central argument for releasing elderly inmates is that society cannot afford the medical and personal care they require.

The Solution

In attempt to manage the increasing cost, legislators and policymakers should consider early release for older prisoners who pose a low risk to public safety. While it is critical that policy-makers weigh the cost-saving benefits of elderly and terminally-ill inmate releases with the need to ensure justice and public safety, it is important to remember that most elderly inmates are no longer a threat to society. Inmates who are physically impaired are not a danger to society because they are actually incapable of committing further crime, while others are completely rehabilitated and no longer care to. Inmates who are no longer a threat should be released to a less costly type of care – nursing homes or halfway houses that will provide such care.

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HF 876/SF602 – Limit Access to Juvenile Records

March 21, 2012

HF 876/SF602
In 1986 Minnesota law was changed to open court proceedings to the public for 16 and 17 year-olds charged with any felony level offense. The resulting records are also public, even if the charges are later dismissed or reduced.

Since 1986, more crimes have been made felonies, criminal records have been made publicly available on centralized electronic sources, the number of commercial background data companies has skyrocketed, and the percentage of employers conducting background checks for any position has increased over 60%.

Now thousands of Minnesota’s young people have their future potential unnecessarily limited. 2,646 Felony level delinquency petitions were filed for 16-17 year olds in 2010. When these young people later seek employment and housing, they will often be denied, sometimes not even knowing their juvenile record was the reason for denial. Juveniles should be held accountable so that they can learn from bad choices and then supported in becoming responsible adults, not forever held back by their juvenile record.

This legislation allows judges to decide, on a case-by-case basis, if a felony level charge of a 16 or 17 year old is serious or violent enough to warrant a public hearing and record.

• The most serious cases, extended jurisdiction juvenile and adult certification hearings, will remain automatically open to the public.
• Victims still have access to all hearings.
• Records maintain current availability for Department of Human Services background studies, corrections, law enforcement, schools, parents, and all positions requiring a background check to work with children.

Authors: Representatives Smith, Woodard, Shimanski, Johnson, Hilstrom, Gauthier, Howes, Champion, Moran, Clark, Kieffer, Liebling, and Lesch; Senators Jungbauer and Harrington

For additional information: Mark Haase, Council on Crime and Justice, 612-819-0738
haasem@crimeandjustice.org
This legislation is part of the legislative agenda of the MN Corrections Association, the Council on Crime and Justice, the MN Second Chance Coalition made up of over 65 different organizations, and the MN Assoc. of Criminal Defense Lawyers. It is also supported by the MN Assoc. of Community Corrections Act Counties, the MN Assoc. of Community Probation Officers, and the MN Juvenile Detention Association.


Welfare Reform 2.0 MFIP/GA Disqualifications – Drug Testing / Criminal Records

March 19, 2012

Second Chance Supporters: Jessica Webster from the Legal Services Advocacy Project has done an excellent job creating a list of bills that disqualify MFIP/GA clients that involve drug use/testing and criminal records and arrest records. I wanted to pass along the information shared.

WELFARE REFORM 2.0

DRUG SCREENING
HF1889/SF1535 (Quam/Nienow) – MFIP/GA drug screening where “suspicion” exists; 3 year ban for a positive
HF1919/SF1801 (Drazkowski/Benson) – Broad MFIP drug screening. 1 year ban for a positive.
SF1665 (Ingebretsen) – MFIP drug screening; 1 year ban for positive
SF1506 (Gazelka) – Broad public programs drug screening; MFIP, GA, Food support, Medical Assistance (also includes the requirement of a photo on the EBT card); indefinite suspension of benefits

DRUG OFFENSE DISQUALIFICATION
SF1877 (Drazkowski) – Permanent cash AND food support ban for anyone with a drug offense since 1997.
HF2080 (Daudt) – Ban on cash assistance to anyone with a drug offense 10 years prior to application.

NEW RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS FOR BENEFITS
SF1507 (Gazelka) – 60 day durational residency for MFIP/GA (increase from 30); photo on an EBT card
HF2250/SF1835 (Daudt/Gazelka) – 60 day durational residency for MFIP/GA (increase from 30)

“WELFARE FRAUD”
HF1956/SF1598 (Anderson/Newman) – Law enforcement mandated reporting on “multiple EBT cards”
SF1877 (Drazkowski) – Requires storage of driver’s license photographs to use for verifying citizenship for MFIP; requires State to regularly report anyone who has been convicted of a felony drug offense to the Commisioner of Human Services.

“WELFARE REFORM”
HF2080/SF1833 (Daudt/Benson) – 36 month time limit on MFIP (decrease from 60 months); decrease exit level to 100%FPG; expedited sanctions (from 7 to 3 occurrences); 10 year look back and MFIP ban for prior drug offenses; removal of optional vendoring for persons with a drug offense on a 15 year look back; mandated criminal background checks paid for by applicant; requirement to provide fingerprints for out of state applicants if reason to believe an offense exists

NEW EBT RESTRICTIONS
HF2249/SF1834 (Daudt/Benson) – prohibits the use of EBT cash outside of Minnesota


Support the Family Reunification Act HF 749

March 14, 2012

The MN Second Chance Coaliton support the Family Reunification Act. The Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis is introducing legislation this session that amends Minnesota’s child protection statutes to include a provision allowing children who are wards of the state to reunify with family.

The legislation is proposed on behalf of the 14 year old who has been a ward of the state since she was nine, the 17 year old who re-entered wardship after a failed adoption, and the 6 year old who entered the system at birth but was never adopted. Other states have solved this problem2. It is time for Minnesota to look at the system through the eyes of a child.

1. Bill’s primary purpose is to provide a LIMITED right (not even the right to ASK for reinstatement for sexual or physical abusers) to petition the court for reestablishment of the legal parent-child relationship.

2. It sets up a rigorous process and a establishes a high standard (clear and convincing) to meet.

3. The fundamental and underlying assumption of this bill is that, for some, redemption is indeed possible, that some people can overcome mistakes in their life, get their life back on track, and want and deserve a chance to reestablish a normal parent-child relationship.

4. If the parent can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he or she has corrected past errors, that he or she is fit to parent, and that the home environment is safe, then reunifying families is in the best interest of the child.

The bill is being heard tomorrow in the House Judiciary (8:15 am in Room 10). Contact the committee members and tell them you support family reunification.  Here is a list of committee members: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/committeemembers.asp?comm=87014


Protect the Future of Minnesota’s Youth: Request a Hearing for Senate File 876/House File 602

March 6, 2012

Dear Second Chance Supporter,
Please ask that Senate File 876/House File 602 be given a hearing in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Please call and write your legislators.

Problem:
Thousands of Minnesota’s children have their future limited by their juvenile delinquency record. In 1986 Minnesota law was changed to open court proceedings to the public for 16 and 17 year-olds charged with any felony level offense. The resulting records are also public, even if the charges are later dismissed or reduced. Since 1986, criminal records have been made publicly available on centralized electronic sources, the number of commercial background data companies has skyrocketed, and the percentage of employers conducting background checks for any position has increased over 60%. Now thousands of Minnesota’s young people have their future potential unnecessarily limited. Over 2,500 felony level delinquency petitions are filed for 16-17 year olds in Minnesota each year (in 2010, 2,646 were filed). When these young people later seek employment and housing, they will often be denied, sometimes not even knowing their juvenile record was the reason for denial. This situation is contrary to the rehabilitative purposes of the juvenile justice system.

Solution:
House File 876 and Senate File 602 would alleviate this problem by allowing judges to decide, on a case-by-case basis, if a felony level charge of a 16 or 17 year old is serious or violent enough to warrant a public hearing and record. The most serious cases, extended jurisdiction juvenile and adult certification hearings, will remain automatically open to the public. Victims will still have access to all hearings.

Records maintain current availability for Department of Human Services background studies, corrections, law enforcement, schools, parents, and all positions requiring a background check to work with children.

This is a bipartisan initiative by Representatives Smith, Woodard, Shimanski, Johnson, Hilstrom, Gauthier, Howes, Champion, Moran, Kieffer, Liebling, Lesch; Senators Jungbauer and Harrington

To find your legislators http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/. Cut and paste the above message to ask them to support the bills getting a hearing before this year’s deadline – March 16th.

For additional information: Mark Haase, Council on Crime and Justice haasem@crimeandjustice.org