Amy Senser, convicted of a felony in the 2011 hit-and-run death of a Minneapolis chef, was moved out of Shakopee women’s prison and to an undisclosed work-release site Thursday.
The wife of former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser is being allowed to reduce by nearly six months the time she was sentenced to spend in prison. Her release occurred “early [Thursday] morning,” said Department of Corrections (DOC) spokeswoman Sarah Latuseck, declining to be more specific because of data privacy laws.
Officials have not disclosed where Senser is being housed. She isn’t listed at the Hennepin County jail or workhouse.
Updated corrections mug shots on the DOC’s Web page that accompanied the change in her incarceration status show her wearing “state-issued offender clothes” that Latuseck says differ from those Senser wore in her earlier prison photos.
Senser’s attorney, Eric Nelson, and her husband declined to comment Thursday.
Last month, officials said that Senser, 47, had applied for and been approved for transfer to a jail or halfway house for work release less than two years after her incarceration began on July 9, 2012. Her release date from prison originally had been Oct. 20, 2014.
Once Oct. 20 arrives, she will be freed from her work-release facility and made subject to supervised release until her 41-month sentence runs out on Dec. 8, 2015. Even after that, her driver’s license will be revoked for approximately six more years.
Senser must follow a list of conditions while on supervised release, such as maintaining an approved residence and submitting to regular drug and alcohol tests. If she violates the terms, a warrant will be issued and she will be taken back into custody, Latuseck said.
Senser, of Edina, was convicted in the Aug. 23, 2011, death of 38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong, a chef at the now-closed True Thai restaurant in Minneapolis.
Phanthavong, who had just finished his shift at 11 p.m., was putting gas in his stalled car on the Riverside Avenue exit ramp of Interstate 94 when he was struck and killed by the SUV Senser was driving.
There were no witnesses. His body, which was thrown 50 feet, was found on the ramp, along with pieces of Senser’s Mercedes-Benz. She has maintained that she didn’t know she had hit a person and that’s why she didn’t stop at the scene.
How work release works
Offenders on work release are allowed to leave their facility only for employment and cannot visit their families or make other stops while out for the day. They are required to be fully employed and are kept under close supervision, Latuseck said.
They also are subject to random urinalysis and Breathalyzer tests to detect chemical use. They can take public transportation or arrange rides to their jobs, she said. Offenders with a traffic-related offense aren’t allowed to drive.
The offenders can seek employment after an orientation has been completed at the work-release facility. Some already have jobs lined up, but most do not. Offenders must also pay a portion of their housing costs while in the work-release facility and must pay court-ordered restitution and fines, Latuseck said.
If an offender is actively seeking employment, the DOC will work with them, she said. They can be referred to a community program that assists in developing job-seeking skills.
The majority of offenders find employment within a few weeks of their placement on work release, Latuseck said. If they are unable to find a job, their work release may be rescinded and they may be returned to prison.
In general, offenders who are found to be at low risk to reoffend and who complete programming requirements, remain discipline-free and meet all other criteria are considered the best work-release candidates.
There are about 200 offenders on work release in Minnesota at any given time, according to the DOC. Historically, fewer than 2 percent commit a new offense while on work release.