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.

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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


Oppose SF1535: Drug Testing Applicants for GA/MFIP

February 12, 2012

Oppose SF1535: Drug Testing Applicants for GA/MFIP
“legislation that wastes taxpayer money and government time”

SF1535 will require Drug Testing Applicants for the Minnesota Family Investment Program and General Assistance
Hearing Scheduled for Tuesday, February 14th @ 10:30 AM in Room 15 Capitol

SF 1535 allows the Department of Human Services to screen GA and MFIP applicants and recipients for illegal substances if the applicant or recipient has two of the following:

• an arrest record
• child protection receives a report alleging abuse or neglect due to parental substance abuse
• DHS witnesses a behavior indicating illegal use of controlled substances (the bill lists 13 behaviors, such as “dilated pupils,” “nausea,” and “odor of alcohol”

If illegal substance abuse is found, the individual will lose their assistance (after an administrative hearing) and be prohibited from receiving assistance for 3 years. Additionally, the individual will be referred to a treatment program. However, the program costs will not be covered. If an MFIP recipient tests positive for illegal substance abuse and the recipient has minor children, the children will continue to be eligible for MFIP. However, the MFIP payment will be “received by a protective payee.”

Contact your legislator – Legislative District Finder http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/


HF1889: Legislation that Wastes Taxpayer Money and Government Time

January 27, 2012

HF1889/SFXXX: Legislation that Wastes Taxpayer Money and Government Time
Drug Testing Applicants for the Minnesota Family Investment Program and General Assistance

HF1889/SFXX is a New Unfunded Mandate on Counties, Local Law Enforcement, and the Judiciary
Contrary to the stated intent of the Legislature to relive local governments of unfunded mandates, HF1889/SFXX imposes a new, unfunded bureaucratic mandate requiring drug testing. The legislation creates significant new responsibilities for counties without providing counties with additional funds to implement the staff training, testing and storage practices, or computer systems modifications required to implement the mandate. Nor are Local law enforcement agencies given any additional funds to provide “once per month” arrest records to hundreds of social services providers across the state. Finally, the courts are not appropriated additional funds to address an inevitable increase in appeals.

HF1889/SFXX Forces Minnesota Taxpayers to Foot the Bill for Negative Tests
HF1889/SFXX requires the State to reimburse applicants for a negative test result. In Florida’s recent experience with drug testing, a mere 2% of applicants tested positive. Therefore, under this bill, Minnesota taxpayers could be asked to engage in the extremely wasteful reimbursement of expenses for the 98% of applicants whose tests are negative. Drug testing can range from $15 to $150 depending on the test.

State Law Already Allows Counties Test Persons with a Prior Drug Conviction
Counties already have the power to test persons with prior drug convictions and to sanction participants for a positive test. The Department of Human Services reports fewer than 20 positive drug tests in the past 14 years.

HF1889/SFXX is Likely Unconstitutional
Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, a person has the right to be free from unreasonable searches. It is well established that a drug test is considered a intrusive search. Government has the burden of showing that such intrusions are based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing or there exists a special government need – such as the protection of public safety – to drug test. The test required by HF 1889/SFXX is an unreasonable search because it is not motivated by individualized, reasonable suspicion of drug use and public safety is not implicated. The courts have never recognized the wholesale deputization of a State’s county workers to find suspicion based on arbitrary indicators created in the bill (i.e., “bizarre behavior, odor of alcohol, twitching, inability to verbalize, nausea”). Such indicators are more likely to erroneously single out persons with disabilities, chronic physical illness, and mental health challenges than they are to detect drug use. The courts have long held that there are “few activities in society more personal or private than the passing of urine.” Due to a lack of empirical data showing low-income people as likely drug users, the Courts have explicitly and continually dismissed “special need” arguments such as the necessity to save taxpayer dollars or to protect children from their parents.

HF1889/SFXX is Discriminatory
If HF1889/SFXXX is intended to protect the integrity of all Minnesota taxpayer dollars, then the legislation should apply to all who receive money from the government — state agency workers; legislators; students receiving educational grants and loans; small business owners receiving state subsidies; veterans receiving state benefits; the elderly, the blind and disabled receiving state benefits; and unemployment insurance applicants. Unless the Legislature can show higher incidents of illegal drug use among low-income parents and disabled adults in MFIP and general assistance, the legislation as written is discriminatory.


Written Testimony to Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel – October 6, 2011

October 9, 2011

Thank you, Members of the Panel, for providing the opportunity to submit testimony. My name is Sarah Walker and I am the Chief Operating Officer of 180 Degrees, Inc. and co-founder of the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition.

I am also a member of the Board of the Prison Policy Initiative, a Massachusetts-based non-partisan, non-profit center which for the last decade has been the leading organization studying how the U.S. Census counts people in prison and working to quantify the policy and legal implications flowing from those technical decisions. Prison-based gerrymandering is also on the Second Chance Coalition’s Legislative Policy Agenda, and we supported the passage of S.F. No. 3097, introduced by Senator Higgins, and H.F. 3536 introduced by Rep. Champion during the last legislative session, which would have addressed this issue.
Each decade, Minnesota redraws its legislative districts on the basis of population to ensure that each district contains the same population as other districts. In this way, all residents are given the same access to representation and government, fulfilling the Supreme Court’s “one person, one vote” rule.
However, the Census Bureau’s practice of counting incarcerated people as residents of the prison location, instead of their home communities, results in significant distortions in achieving fair representation. Traditionally, Minnesota uses Census Bureau data for redistricting purposes, engaging in prison-based gerrymandering, even though Article VII, § 2 of the Minnesota Constitution says that a person’s residence does not change upon incarceration.
The problem in Minnesota is wide-spread; currently there are 10 Minnesota House districts where state and federal prison populations were counted as residents during the last redistricting cycle, significantly enhancing the weight of a vote cast in those districts. (See table below.) Treating prison populations as if they were actual constituents of the districts where prisons are located dilutes the votes of everyone who does not have a large prison in their district.
District Census Population Prison population Percent deviation between actual resident population and ideal district size
56A 36,812 1,746 -4.48%
20A 36,641 1,324 -3.80%
52A 36,767 1,124 -2.91%
26B 36,496 1,097 -3.58%
26A 36,780 943 -2.38%
08A 36,721 861 -2.32%
08B 36,998 847 -1.53%
30A 36,890 839 -1.80%
15B 36,573 800 -2.56%
06B 36,697 599 -1.67%

Minnesota could follow the example of other states that have already ensured the end of prison-based gerrymandering within their borders. New York and Maryland are counting incarcerated individuals at their home addresses this redistricting cycle. Similar legislation is awaiting the Governor’s signature in California and already passed in Delaware, allowing both states to take the same approach after the 2020 Census.
Although it is too late for Minnesota to collect the information necessary to count incarcerated people at their residential address, the state need not wait another decade to take action to lessen the harm of prison-based gerrymandering. Arizona and Massachusetts are already currently working on interim solutions for the current redistricting cycle to avoid exacerbating the major distorting effects of prison populations in redistricting.
There are three ways that the Panel can greatly reduce the impact of prison-based gerrymandering in Minnesota during this redistricting cycle. First is to simply remove any prison populations form the redistricting data, thus eliminating large concentrations of phantom constituents from districts with large prisons. The second option is to deliberately overpopulate any district that contains a correctional facility by approximately the population size of the correctional facility, and slightly under-populate the home districts of incarcerated individuals. Third, the Panel could identify prison populations in any redistricting tables it publishes so that the inclusion of such populations would be transparent to all, and use that information to take prison populations into account when drawing majority-minority districts.
First Option
The Panel can use the Census Bureau’s Advance Group Quarters Summary File to remove the correctional facilities from the Census counts used in redistricting. Mathematically, counting incarcerated people at the prison location has a larger vote dilutive effect than simply failing to count them at the correct home address. Below is a subset of this file in tabular form showing the 22 census blocks that contain state prisons, federal prisons, private prisons and halfway houses in Minnesota along with the populations counted within those facilities by the Census Bureau. The Prison Policy Initiative has also made point shapefiles of this Minnesota data in both ESRI and Maptitude formats . The shapefiles include direct links to Census data on the race and ethnicity of the incarcerated population within each block. (For more technical information on these files or using the Census Bureau’s group quarters summary file, you can contact Peter Wagner at Aleks Kajstura at the Prison Policy Initiative at (413) 527-0845.)

County Tract Block Correctional Population Facility Name(s) Facility Type(s)
Anoka County 050229 1020 1,305 Minnesota Correctional Facility-Lino Lakes State
Carlton County 070500 5021 1,128 MCF Willow River/Moose Lake State
Chisago County 110200 1049 980 MCF Rush City State
Hennepin County 008400 1000 25 Volunteers of America Private
Hennepin County 021602 1014 16 Damascus Way Private
Hennepin County 105600 3000 21 180 Degrees Halfway House
Olmsted County 002300 5012 954 Federal Medical Center, Rochester Federal
Pine County 950400 2132 1,315 FCI Sandstone Federal
Polk County 020700 1013 8 Red River Valley Juvenile Center Halfway House
Polk County 020700 1031 139 Tri-County Community Corrections Halfway House
Ramsey County 033200 1015 12 RS Eden (Women’s) Halfway House
Ramsey County 035500 2007 34 RS Eden (Men’s) Halfway House
Ramsey County 041602 2008 46 Volunteers of America- Female Private
Rice County 070700 3013 2,058 MCF-Faribault State
Scott County 080500 2009 588 MCF Shakopee State
Sherburne County 031500 4008 1,000 MCF St. Cloud State
St. Louis County 000300 1043 772 Federal Prison Camp Duluth Federal
St. Louis County 002000 2004 45 Bethel Work Release Program Halfway House
St. Louis County 011100 2003 150 Northeast Regional Correction Center Private
Waseca County 790500 2104 1,067 FCI Waseca Federal
Washington County 070801 1001 1,587 MCF Stillwater State
Washington County 070802 1001 448 MCF Oak Park Heights State

Second Option
The second option is to deliberately overpopulate any district that contains a correctional facility by approximately the population size of the correctional facility. Conveniently for Minnesota, no individual prison is larger than the allowable population deviation. As long as multiple large prisons are not clustered together in the same district, it should be possible keep the actual population of each district within the traditional maximum population variance of 5%.
The Panel can do this through a careful use of the allowed population deviation between districts. The ideal size of House districts to be drawn this year is 39,582, with each district ranging in size from 37,603 to 41,561 (allowing for the 5% deviation in each direction). The Panel can deliberately overpopulate each district that contains a correctional facility by about the same population as the correctional facility.

For example, if a prison has a population of 1,000 people, try to draw the district that contains the prison to contain about 40,582 people, instead of the ideal size of 39,582:
2012 District: Hypothetical District with prison

Ideal District Size in 2012: 39,582
Allowable District Size in 2012: 37,603 to 41,561
(assuming ± 5 % deviation)

Census population: 40,582
Prison population: 1,000
Actual population: 39,582

Deliberately overpopulating this district by the prison population counted within it will result in a district with the ideal number of actual residents.

Third Option
Third, the Panel should at the very least identify prison populations in any redistricting tables it publishes so that the inclusion of such populations could be taken into account by anyone reviewing the maps. Disclosing which districts contain prison populations as part of the Panel’s demographic analysis would be useful to the public. A healthy discussion about redistricting needs to include information about the number of people incarcerated in each district.
Critically, being aware of prison populations while drawing districts will also help the Panel minimize the vote dilutive effect of prison-based gerrymandering because it will make it less likely that several large prisons are concentrated in the same district, and it will lessen the odds that a large prison will be placed within a district that is already underpopulated.
The Panel should also take prison populations into account when drawing majority-minority districts, Arizona’s Redistricting Commission, for example, is currently excluding prison populations when analyzing districts for Voting Rights Act purposes. The Arizona Redistricting Commission states that it would exclude prisons from its Voting Rights Act Section 5 analysis in order to avoid creating “artificial majority-minority districts” comprised largely of non-voting incarcerated populations. As the Commission’s redistricting expert Bruce Adelson emphasized at a September 8 hearing: “The election analysis in determining what are effective majority-minority districts where minorities have the opportunity to elect, as we’ve talked about, cannot include felons who are incarcerated because they can’t vote.”

Conclusion
Crediting all of Minnesota’s incarcerated people to a few locations enhances the political clout of the people who live near prisons, while diluting voting power of all other Minnesotans. I urge the Panel to consider the above solutions to ensure that the weight of a person’s vote is not based on the happenstance of where they live.

  • More information is available:
     Preventing Prison-Based Gerrymandering in Redistricting: What to Watch For is a guide for advocates who want to minimize the effects of prison-based gerrymandering in their state or community: http://www.demos.org/pubs/Preventing_pbg.pdf
     States are Authorized to Adjust Census Data to End Prison-Based Gerrymandering, and Many Already Do is a fact sheet summarizing the discretion given under federal law to adjust the Census for redistricting purposes: http://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/factsheets/adjusting.pdf
     Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Minnesota, is a district-by-district analysis of prison-based gerrymandering in Connecticut state legislative districts: http://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/mn/report.html