Letter: Resources needs to help state move away from overuse of prisons

The Minnesota Legislature, as well as those in other states and the U.S. Congress, is discussing the issue of prison use. Involved are both issues involving persons of color as well as extended sentences for drugs and other offenses. The sentencing guidelines commission is discussing proposals for changes they can control; some suggest because they do not trust the Legislature to act in a election year.

In Minnesota, there is a significant shortage of prison beds, which the correction department is proposing to resolve by spending some $141 million.

My concern is that solving these problems by modifying sentences, without adding other resources, saves the state dollars, but passes the cost to jails and probation, which, in Olmsted County, are largely property-tax funded.

Additionally, media reports are discussing the shortage of treatment beds for chemical dependency.

Both of these problems virtually guarantee there will be a number of individuals either committing new offenses or at least not making a successful adjustment following confinement or violating their terms of probation.


The lack of treatment beds also means individuals seeking voluntary treatment or by order of civil comment will face impossible delays.

Clearly, we need to move away from our current overuse of prisons, but we cannot succeed unless we make available resources to work in their place.

Ray Schmitz


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