Bleak predictions for justice in Minnesota, report says

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 10, 2007 - 7:45 AM

A report out today sees a bleak future for state justice system and offers ways to change.

Without a change in course, Minnesota will need to build a new prison for 1,000 inmates every other year from now until 2030.

And the number of black people arrested in the state will nearly double by 2030.

And too many children will be raised by single mothers barely getting by.

Those bleak predictions are part of a call to action being issued today by the Council on Crime and Justice, as the nonprofit group celebrates its 50th anniversary at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The council lays out five corrective actions that the state can take in a 147-page framework titled, "Justice, Where Art Thou?" The exhaustive report details numerous ominous signs for the state's justice system, including a burgeoning prison population and an increasing gap between the state's aging affluent white population and its growing, poor minority population.

"Populations of color here are poorer here than elsewhere," council president Tom Johnson said. "Our trend lines most closely align with Detroit's."

The most politically sensitive trend, the report says, is the nature of the family. The traditional family has changed. In 1960, 5 percent of families in Minnesota were led by a woman. In 2000, 18 percent of state families were -- and the figure was considerably higher in Hennepin and Ramsey counties. Their median income in 2000 was a meager $24,335.

The report describes a "bleak picture" of arrest and incarceration in 2030 without corrective action: A 25 percent increase in the total number of arrests from 2006. A doubling of the number of blacks arrested. The number of people imprisoned is expected to double to more than 20,000 and to be disproportionately minority.

"The combination of the white and minority increases means that Minnesota will need to build a new prison holding 1,000 inmates roughly every two years between now and 2030," the report said. "The associated costs, financial and social, are not an acceptable situation."

Right now, blacks make up 32 percent of the prison population and only 4 percent of the general population, the report said, citing U.S. Census and state Department of Corrections statistics. Those numbers are driven in large part by the war on drugs, the report said.

"The obvious injustice demonstrated by the disparity between how different races have been treated in the war on drugs undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system, causing people to lose confidence that the system is even-handed and works equally for the benefit of all citizens," it said.

Efforts to lower the crime rate

The report sets specific goals:

• By 2020, 90 percent of fathers should be active in their children's lives.

• By 2025, 95 percent of high school students should graduate on time and affordable, timely treatment for mental illness and chemical addiction should be available.

• By 2015, the justice system should provide full restoration for every victim and proportionate consequences for offenders.

• The state's correctional model should focus on rehabilitation and redemption.

• By 2012, legal barriers should be removed from the records of criminals except for serious offenders.

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    Black 25.2 yearsAmerican Indian 25.5 yearsAsian 24.5 yearsHispanic 23.0 yearsWhite, not Hispanic 37.2 yearsMinnesota median family incomeBlack $31,200American Indian $31,031Asian...

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