ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House has approved a public safety package that would decrease inmate populations in hopes of preventing a coronavirus outbreak in state prisons, among other policies.
Passed by a 76-58 vote on Saturday, May 16, the package appropriates nearly $17 million to the Minnesota Department of Corrections to help cover extraordinary costs incurred by the department due to the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would also allow the DOC commissioner to conditionally release some nonviolent, low-risk offenders in order to decrease inmate concentration in prisons and accommodate health experts' social distancing guidelines.
Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, proposed to cut the bill's conditional release language, saying it was a question of whether legislators stand behind victims of crime, or perpetrators.
Rep. Carlos Mariani, D-St. Paul, retorted that legislators needed to "put aside partisan posturing" and focus on how to keep Minnesotans safe from unnecessary coronavirus outbreaks. Diluting prison populations is one way, he said.
The omnibus also included bills authored by Rep. Marion O'Neill, R-Maple Lake, requiring the state to securely store and test all authorized rape kits, as well as create a searchable database survivors could log in to view the status of their cases. O'Neill authored the bill after 2019 reports showed the Minneapolis Police Department was sitting on hundreds of untested rape kits.