To the Editor,

Senate Democrats brought forward a public safety bill that fails to prioritize any aspect of public safety concerns. Crime in Minnesota has been steadily rising and expanding from the metro outward. Instead of addressing concerns of folks across the state, Democrats gave us a public safety bill that makes thousands of criminals eligible for early release, reduces sentences for violent offenders, and funnels millions of dollars to untested and unproven non-profits, all while ignoring the needs of law enforcement through the state. 

I’m especially troubled by the provision that allows 92% of the prison population to be eligible for early release. This is part of the Minnesota Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act (MRRA), which reduces the amount of incarceration time to one-half of the original sentence. Folks, Minnesota is already a low incarceration state because so much of our sentencing relies heavily on probation instead of incarceration. This MRRA language has the ability to impact 7,400 out of the 8,000 prisoners in the state. That means criminals that have committed heinous crimes like manslaughter, rape, and kidnapping will be eligible for early release. I find this utterly appalling. 

The MRRA also doesn’t require victims to have any notification of their perpetrators’ early release. The bill currently states an attempt needs to be made to let them know, but that’s it. Imagine being the victim of one of these terrible crimes, and suddenly you’re walking through your community or you’re shopping at the grocery store, and you run into the person who committed a violent crime against you. This bill truly does a disservice to victims that, in some cases, have gone through unthinkable trauma. This will put victims and our communities at risk. 

This bill also thought it was necessary to reduce the maximum penalties for juveniles tried as adults from 25 years down to as little as 15 years. This change could potentially affect 96 individuals, included those who committed horrifying crimes such as murder and rape. Again, we are putting victims and communities greatly at risk with these mind-boggling provisions. 

While this bill seems to soften its approach regarding crime and criminals, it also fails to provide any sort of meaningful assistance for law enforcement organizations. As I’m sure you all remember, “Defund the Police” was an awful movement that really made it hard on law enforcement when it came to attracting talent, and they’re still feeling the effects of that to this day. Police are struggling to fill openings, and colleges are struggling to fill criminal justice programs. A public safety bill coupled with a historic surplus offered us a golden opportunity to make needed and targeted investments in law enforcement, yet Democrats instead decided to focus on prioritizing criminals. 

It really is hard to believe that a public safety bill is doing everything but ensuring “public safety” for our communities. At the end of the day, we really should be asking—who do these policies and bills benefit? By neglecting the needs of law enforcement and making criminals eligible for early release, Senate Democrats have opted to send a clear message to folks across the state: it’s more important to release criminals than it is to keep families safe in their communities.

Senator Paul Utke

Park Rapids, Minn.