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Minnesota bill aims to help people leaving prison reintegrate into society

(The Center Square) – Lawmakers held a press conference Thursday to introduce a bill aiming to remove barriers for prisoners returning to society.

Sen. Dave Osmek, R-Mound, and Rep. Erin Koegel, DFL-Spring Lake Park, are championing the bill.

The bill seeks to help people leaving incarceration become productive members of society.

“The emphasis of this bill is to remove as many barriers from inmates leaving incarceration so that they could be successful,” Osmek said.

The bill language would provide inmates with items necessary to get housing and a job, such as a social security card, a copy of their birth certificate, and a photo ID.

It also includes language to continue to get 30-day access to non-narcotic medications, such as medicine for schizophrenia.

The bill also seeks to give ex-inmates a copy of their court-ordered fees.

“When you leave prison, we know when you’re leaving that you are set up for as much success as you possibly can be so you’re not reincarcerated,” Osmek said. “I think it eventually saves money because the less we incarcerate people, the more taxpayers save money, and… we’re trying to create taxpayers.”

The legislation aims to reduce the state’s recidivism rate, Koegel said.

“Our goal is to make sure that people’s past mistakes don’t dictate the rest of their lives…. We want to make sure that we’re setting folks up for success, not failure,” Koegel said.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections (MDOC) supports the bill.

One possible barrier to the bill becoming law could be a projected budget deficit since the bill would cost money to print personal identification. However, that deficit will be updated in a Friday revenue estimating conference, and the state pulled in more tax revenue in January than projected.

Minnesota spends roughly $40,540 annually per 7,300 incarcerated persons, for a total cost of nearly $300 million, MDOC spokesperson Sarah Fitzgerald told The Center Square.

About a quarter (24%) of all offenders recidivate within three years of release from prison or jail, or probation, according to the 2018 University of Minnesota’s Criminal History Score Recidivism Project report.

The bill will likely have to pass through three committees before it reaches the Senate floor.

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