Selected Mentions of Paper Prisons in the News

The election changed the politics of crime; criminal justice reformers back on the rise (Jan. 9, 2022)

“The November election scrambled the politics of crime in Minnesota.

Republican campaigns were hyper-focused on the issue, which followed years of rising violent crime and frequent — and at times sensationalist — media coverage.

Democrats ran the table in November anyway.   

A legislative session that many expected to focus on tougher criminal penalties and lots of money for police agencies looks much different, with criminal justice reformers again on offense. They’ll seek to rein in wayward police and look more toward prevention and root causes of crime, like extreme poverty, untreated mental illness and addiction. 

Last week, Frazier introduced his priority bill, HF25, which includes funding for:

  • Violent crime investigation teams to reduce the big number of unsolved crimes.
  • Grants to community violence prevention and intervention programs that deal with victim services, prison re-entry, homelessness assistance, restorative justice, violence interruption and juvenile diversion.
  • Grants to help law enforcement improve responses to people having mental health crises and improve criminal investigations.  Frazier’s bill includes $10 million to upgrade technology to investigate crimes or process evidence, and $15 million annually to maintain or expand crisis response teams — social workers or mental health providers that respond to mental health calls.
  • Increased funding in 2024 and 2025 for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s use-of-force investigations unit.

Lawmakers could also take action on:

  • The Clean Slate Act proposed last session, which would make it easier to get a criminal record expunged for people who qualify. 
  • Probation reform. Minnesota has the nation’s fifth highest rate of people on probation, and a bipartisan group began studying reforms in 2021. The rate of Black people on felony probation was nearly five times higher than the rate of white people in 2019; the rate for Native Americans was more than nine times higher, and the rate was 1.7 times higher for Latinos. 
  • A retroactive probation cap. Probation for most offenses is limited to five years, but it’s not retroactive. 
  • Bail reform, such as ending cash bail for nonviolent crimes, or a study on bail and the likelihood of re-offending. Frazier said this bill needs more work.
  • Additional staffing for the state’s police licensing board, which is nearing the end of a three-year process to enact new rules for conduct and licensure for police officers.

Frazier said he agrees with the need to collect data on prosecutorial charging decisions, but he wants more than what police are seeking, which he jabbed as an effort to collect “opposition research” for political campaigns. Instead, he also wants data collection on the material underlying charging decisions — like incident reports and charging forms submitted by officers — which would give a fuller picture. The point of all the data collection, he said, would be “addressing inequities that lead to disparities.”

And Frazier said he will carry the police PTSD bill this year, working off a bill debated last year that would require police officers and firefighters to get treatment in order to get workers’ compensation benefits or apply for disability pensions.  “

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