Minnesota’s policy of including long probation periods as part of prison sentences may be what’s driving the problem of having more inmates than the state prisons can hold, says Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds.
Now, you might think that getting people out of prison and on probation could help the situation — and it does, to the extent that they’re no longer in prison — but Minnesota has long probation periods and ranks in the top five for the number of people who are on probation. Levy-Pounds says that’s one of the big causes of more people being sent back to prison.
“We could significantly reduce not only the number of people on probation, but the number of folks who go back into the criminal justice system due to probation violations for technical offensives. Not violent offenses. Not serious offenses. But simply because they didn’t call a probation officer in a timely manner. They didn’t get housing or employment, or whatever the technical reasons are, helping to fuel this crisis.”
Levy-Pounds made the comments during a meeting of the Prison Population Task Force, a group of lawmakers and other interested parties who are trying to come up with solutions before the legislature begins its next session in March.
The task force is considering a range of solutions such as changing sentencing guidelines, expanding current state prisons, and possibly renting a private prison in Appleton, Minnesota that is owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
For-Profit Prison System Feared
Those last two options have members of ISAIAH very worried. Organizer Arique Aguilar believes that if more prison beds are built or rented, people such as her husband (who is an undocumented worker) will be targeted to become prisoners because of the profit motive. “When we have a for-profit system… it stops becoming about justice and it starts becoming about profit. And my husband is more than just a bottom line.”
Catalina Morales de Sanchez, an ISAIAH organizer, echoes that sentiment, saying that use of private corporations to run prisons puts a price tag on the heads of minorities.
So far, lawmakers appear to be opposed to having CCA run any state prison. However, ISAIAH and other groups are opposed to CCA making money from the state for renting out the prison since CCA has been cited many times in other states for abusing prisoners.
At top-Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds.
In middle – ISAIAH members hold a prayer vigil before the Prison Population Task Force meeting
Below – Prison Population Task Force Meeting (full meeting)