Recently, we witnessed George Floyd die at the hands of 4 Minneapolis police officers. He was handcuffed and then pinned to the pavement by 3 police officer of which one used his knee to choke him. Video shows Mr. Floyd repeatedly stating “I can’t breathe” but the officers continue to pin him for minutes as he slowly died from a lack of oxygen. Although Mr. Floyd did originally resist arrest, it is completely unjust for officers to literally choke him to death on the pavements.
Although the behavior doesn’t usually result in death, much of the Minnesota Department of corrections and state legislature lives in the same corrupt mindset as these police officers. If you take a look, you’ll find they lack a parole board, abuse taxpayer/charity funds, and have enacted many tough on crime laws. Many of these abuses grown significantly since COVID-19 began. Prisons are looking for ways to turn COVID-19 into a cost cutting initiative with inmate standards of living being the losing factor. One of the biggest elements in time served and quality of life for many in prison is their behavior. If you’re starting fights, you’re going to be given more restrictions and you won’t be granted early parole. However, if you’re in Minnesota, you don’t even have the opportunity to get early “parole” and there’s no parole board. You’re not given better treatment for good behavior or bettering yourself in prison. You’ll automatically serve 2/3 of your sentences and 1/3 under a supervised released(parole). Someone who does nothing but create issues in prisons can still get out at the same time as someone with perfect behavior if they were both sentenced for the same timeframe. The sentencing and parole options make little sense to encourage good behavior among prisoners.
One of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism rates among former convicts is to give them a purpose. Minnesota prisons range in their offerings of educational programs. We see facilities such as Stillwater, Shakopee and Moose lake offering bachelors degrees through multiple Minnesota colleges. While others offer associates degrees and certifications. These prison education systems have dwindled to near nothing during COVID-19 but taxpayer funding and charity funding continues to flow from prisons to colleges.
A member of the Minnesota Department of Corrections stated “these education programs went from 6 hours of classes 5 days per week to 2-3 videos per weeks lasting 20 minutes each since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Inmates are expected to learn for months of their semester with nothing more than a simple video a few times per week. The tutors in these facilities are then stuck working with inmates who haven’t really been taught anything by the instructor. The education programs are gone as long as the pandemic fears continue and possibly longer.” What’s shocking is these apparent precautions seems to just be a way to support colleges instead of inmates. These inmates are currently receiving little education and colleges are still getting a payment from the prison system and charities. Many facilities across the nation have begun to release elderly or at risk prisoners to avoid potential illness and deaths from COVID. Minnesota prisons have really only been full of talk with no real action in releasing nonviolent offenders with significant risk of dying from COVID-19 while incarcerated. The act of reducing person to person contact through educational environments is being used as an excuse to reduce inmate education and continue financial support of colleges.
These cut backs during COVID-19 don’t stop with the education programs. We see prisons across Minnesota reducing inmate meals which questions their ethics in their detailed food services manual. A member of the Minnesota Department of Corrections stated “inmates went from 3 meals meeting basic nutrition to 2 full meals and a snack provided at lunch. One of these snacks at lunch being provided is two hardboiled eggs and 18 saltine crackers. That’s only 386 calories and provides little vitamins or minerals. You don’t need to be a dietician to realize that’s not a meal nor a healthy snack. It’s loaded with sodium and cholesterol. Neither of which are good for you in high amounts. These attempts to cut costs don’t support even minimum standards of living for inmates and certainly don’t attempt to reduce recidivism rates.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections saw a 1% increase of incarcerations between 2008-2016 even though their crime rates dropped 24%. Why does Minnesota continue to incarcerate more people while crime rates drop? Between 1991-2016, Minnesota’s prison system population grew 150% mainly due to tough crime laws passed by legislature. These laws put in place mandatory minimums for many crimes and disregard any circumstances for individual situations. Additionally, prison funding has not kept pace at only a 3% growth between 2014-2020 while incarceration rates and facility costs continue to rise.
Minnesota is severely lacking with their justice system. Citizens are faced with rogue officers, underfunded corrections facilities, struggling internal programs for inmates, and tough on crime laws. If you do any digging, you won’t be surprised George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis. He’s not the first but hopefully will be the last. It’s time to put Minnesota in check with its justice system and to put justice systems nationwide in check. Police are not kings of their precincts. Police are servants and protectors of citizens.