News Article
December 11, 2018

County Board Runs From Community Asking for Holiday Miracle: Stop Crimeless Returns to Prison

Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee,


County Board Runs From Community Asking for Holiday Miracle: Stop Crimeless Returns to Prison

At today’s Hennepin County Board meeting, forty community members silently stood to ask for a motion they’d spoken for at the November 15th meeting - to stop people from being sent back to prison for crimeless “technical” violations of parole. Their motion also requests the release of people incarcerated on such violations for the holidays. Instead of entertaining the motion, the Board fled their constituents.

In the Board’s absence community members shared personal experiences with the prison system. They mentioned the 2,986 people sent to prison without a new crime in 2017, a growing prison system when crime is at a 50 year low, and the harm done to children whose parents are sent to prison needlessly. They also sang “No new crime, no new time, let our people go!” a prison themed Christmas Carol to the tune of Jingle Bells.

“The Commissioners sent negotiators to ask if we wanted to address the Board at the end of the meeting, but we’d already spoken in public forum” said David Boehnke, member of the Decarcerate MN Coalition. “We asked that they put this on a meeting agenda for next year but they said that wasn’t something they’d do”. Two hours of negotiations ended with a commitment by two Commissioners to meet in the new year.

In 2016, two-thirds of new admissions to Minnesota state prisons were sent back on a technical violation of probation or parole. Decarcerate MN believes the practice of sending people back to prison on technical violations contributes to prison overcrowding in Minnesota, does irreparable harm to Minnesota families and their incarcerated loved ones, and is an irresponsible use of the state budget.

The Vera Institute of Justice estimates the cost of incarceration to be $41,366 per person annually - a figure leading to millions of dollars that the Decarcerate Minnesota Coalition believes would be better spent helping the families and communities most affected by mass incarceration to thrive.

“We know many members of the Board should care about something like this, but they didn’t take their community seriously the first time around,” says Melanie Nelson of the Decarcerate MN. “We hope they do now”.