Repeat offenders could spend less time under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines proposal
A proposed change to Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines that could reduce sentences for people who commit crimes while on suspended or suspended sentences was rejected Thursday by critics who argued that repeat offenders would be admitted.
State sentencing guidelines, which operate on a points system, take into account the severity of the crime and an offender’s previous convictions, including previous crimes, offenses, and detention status. The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission is considering abolishing the points assigned to detention status, a change that could effectively result in easier punishment for repeat offenders as higher total scores generally translate into longer sentences.
During a public hearing on Thursday at the State Capitol, critics voiced concerns about such indulgence given the recent surge in violent crime.
“The Minnesotans are not asking you to do this,” Anne Neu Brindley, deputy minority leader of the House of Representatives, R-North Branch, told the commission. “We are fed up with avoidable tragedies by people who have broken the law but are not held accountable by our judicial system.”
Proponents of the change said it would give a necessary break to people who commit low-level drug and property crimes, most often punished for offenses while on parole or parole.
“The emphasis on detaining these perpetrators and the inattention to solving violent crimes is a leading cause of criminal justice dysfunction in this country,” said Will Cooley of Decarcerate Minnesota. “Incarceration of drug users increases the likelihood of premature death.”
Lars Negstad, political director of the nationwide religious coalition ISAIAH, said treating people who commit crimes while in custody differently from first-time offenders “keeps them trapped in their past rather than providing them with a path to rehabilitation and reconciliation”.
Robert Small, executive director of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, argued otherwise. Individuals supervised for a previously committed crime should be expected to abide by the law and not break it, he said.
“If the guidelines no longer account for additional ramifications for this behavior, it is not good for public safety, it is not good for fairness,” said Small. “It is just not good policy to reward the non-compliant monitored criminal.”
Other law enforcement groups such as the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association and the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association also spoke out against the proposal, as did witnesses raised over sex crimes.
Most offenders get half a point for committing a crime while in custody, while sex offenders get two points, which extends their sentence for a new offense.
Several witnesses called on the commission to maintain the point system specifically for sex offenders. However, some commissioners said it was unlikely to be necessary as a provision in state policies allowing courts to punish sex offenders who commit a new offense “to the maximum legal limit” would remain in place even if they did the detention status points would be abolished.
State Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, opposed the proposal, accusing Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell and other members of the Sentencing Policy Commission of “de facto lawmakers”.
“Despite the fact that you don’t have a ballot paper, the difference between you and me in regulatory decisions is that, as a legislator, I am accountable to the public,” said Limmer, chairman of the Senate Department of Justice and Public Security Committee. “I have a choice and I have to justify my decisions … and you don’t.”
Limmers DFL colleague, Rep. Carlos Mariani, chairman of the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee, testified in support of the Commission on Sentencing Guidelines, which he believes was set up to operate “independently of political interference”.
“I appreciate this assignment because, at best and as intended, it is a space that ensures that objective data, analysis and community discussions make decisions,” said Mariani.
Republicans have noted that DFL Governor Tim Walz appoints eight of the eleven members of the commission. At a press conference on Wednesday, Walz said he trusted the “great expertise of the commission”.
“I guess I’m trying to tell the Minnesotas that this is [change] “Somehow it will make you less secure is just not true,” said Walz. “You can’t block your way out of some of these things and lock yourself up, but you can be smart to make sure the most violent perpetrators aren’t getting out.”
The Judgment Guidelines Commission will vote on the proposal on January 13th. In November the panel voted 6 to 4 to put him for a hearing.