Editorial Summary: Minnesota

Minneapolis Star Tribune. January 18, 2023.

Editorial: Fixing the state’s juvenile justice system

DFL proposals would help address issues uncovered in the Star Tribune news series.

There aren’t enough appropriate places in Minnesota to send juvenile delinquents — especially those who have trauma and mental health issues.

Some defendants are offered places in diversionary programs to help get them back on track, but others are not given the same opportunity. And oversight and coordination of the programs offered by the state’s counties is woefully lacking.

These are just some of the issues uncovered in the Star Tribune’s investigative news report, Juvenile Injustice. The five-part series documented how the quality of youth rehabilitation programs varies by county and how little oversight there is to determine what works and what doesn’t. It highlighted how important it is for the state and counties to provide safe and effective options for young people.

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For that reason, a group of Minnesota DFL lawmakers is rightly recommending significant legislative changes that would address some of these shortcomings. They hope to use part of the $17.6 billion state surplus for intervention programs to get children out of criminal activity.

Proposals include establishing a state juvenile justice bureau that would encourage, coordinate and measure community-based approaches to juvenile delinquency. This office could help bring Minnesota closer to some of the programs that have proven successful in Colorado, as detailed in the Star Tribune series.

In the past seven years, more than 1,300 young people in Colorado have been sent on rigorous restorative justice programs where they stand up to those they have harmed. According to a government study, less than 10% committed another crime within a year of completion. This compares to a 16% recidivism rate for young parolees in Colorado.

Minnesota MP Sandra Feist, DFL-New Brighton, is the vice chair of the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee and the lead author of the proposals. She said the state needs a “fairer and more responsive juvenile court system than the one we have right now – which is clearly not working”.

And DFL Senate President Bobby Joe Champion said he is working on a bill to address issues with Minnesota’s expanded juvenile parole system. Children can be put on probation until their 21st birthday or up to seven years. The system was created in the early 1990s as an alternative to incarceration for those who repeatedly committed violent crimes. It has become known as the “back door” to prison because it seduces teenagers who are not normally eligible for an adult criminal conviction.

About half of the 1,335 Minnesota youth placed on extended probation since 2011 have had that status revoked and criminal convictions imposed, according to an analysis of court data by the Star Tribune. Champion wants to “modernize” the program. Rather than jailing young people for parole violations, the system should do more to get to the root causes of their behavior.

As the Star Tribune editorial board has previously argued, it is critical for the state and counties to provide safe and effective options for young people in the system. There needs to be an appropriate commitment of resources and programs that not only punish but also rehabilitate — rather than sending offenders into their communities without support or placing them in out-of-state or adult facilities.

The DFL proposals promise to address deficiencies in Minnesota’s current patchwork juvenile justice rules. They deserve support as they move through the legislative process in this session to create a fairer and more effective way to deal with the state’s child and juvenile offenders.

Mankato FreePress. January 24, 2023.

Editorial: Setting carbon targets for utilities is a good move

Setting goals in and of themselves does not guarantee results.

But that doesn’t mean goals aren’t valuable, even vital.

Minnesota lawmakers are pushing for utilities to go carbon-free by 2040.

A Senate bill authored by DFL Senator Nick Frentz of North Mankato would set certain benchmarks for utilities and set a goal of producing carbon-neutral energy in 18 years.

Legislation would not dictate that utilities use any particular energy mix, leaving them free to choose the path that works best for them. It would also allow utilities to apply to the Public Utilities Commission for an exemption if the utility has essentially met its targets but has been unable to meet the full targets for good reason.

An accompanying bill moves through the house.

Numerous companies have already set themselves the goal of being carbon neutral by a certain point in time.

Some criticize such targets when it is uncertain whether the benchmarks can be achieved with available technology and at a reasonable cost.

But without goals, it’s too easy to fall further behind in addressing climate change seriously.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that while global greenhouse gas emissions have reached the highest levels in human history in recent years, the rate of growth has slowed. However, they realize that more serious measures must be taken to avert disaster.

And it’s possible. The IPCC notes that the cost of solar, wind and battery power has fallen by up to 85% since 2010.

It’s not technology or cost that’s preventing further progress, but a lack of political will. The DFL’s commitment to better progress is good for the future of the state and should be adopted by other states and the federal government.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.


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