A nearly 60-year-old Minneapolis-based nonprofit focused on helping people involved in the criminal justice system has closed its doors and laid off its nine employees and three contractors.

Employees of the Council on Crime and Justice said they still have not received their last paychecks covering two to three weeks of pay since their May 12 layoff. They were given two hours on Friday to clean out their desks at the council’s office at 822 S. 3rd St. 

“They told us that if we went through bankruptcy we’re third in line,” said Sarah Salsgiver, the council’s crime victim and advocacy coordinator. “Taxes and loans come first.”

Board president Perry Moriearty said the council is working to get employees their checks.

“Making sure that happens is our first priority,” said Moriearty, a University of Minnesota law professor.

The council started in 1957 and has a mission to “seek a criminal justice system that is equitable and just,” according to its website.

The council helped criminal offenders get their records expunged and find jobs and housing. It offered a hot line for crime victims seeking reparations and counseling, and worked with prisoners to be better parents once they were released. The council also conducted more than three dozen research projects since 1999 centered on criminal justice.

More recently, the council helped to pass the “ban the box” law, which prohibits employers from asking about criminal histories when people first apply for jobs.

“It’s going to be a big hole in the community,” said Andrea Palumbo, the council’s criminal records attorney.

Palumbo and Salsgiver said they had been told that the council closed after its main source of revenue, the Federal Office of Justice Programs, froze its funding following an audit.

“They were having a hard time matching [the council’s] numbers,” Salsgiver said.

Moriearty said she could not say specifically why the council shut down. “The council has had to face some extreme and serious financial hardships over the last several months,” she said.

In 2014 the council reported revenue of $1.3 million and net assets of $427,488, according to a financial filing.