For nearly a decade, Scott County has been shorted community corrections funding — up to $150,000 per year since 2006.
In a complicated system that funds supervision of adult and juvenile offenders outside of jails and prisons, Scott has fallen through the cracks. Now, the county is pushing for full funding this legislative session, amid a larger charge by all 32 participating community corrections counties to simplify the funding model and bring in more state money.
“It could be $100,000, $150,000 more, which is always important to the county,” said Scott County lobbyist and former state Sen. Claire Robling. “It’s money that the state provides them instead of local taxpayers.”
Scott County provides the corrections services that other participating counties do, but with less state money. The overall shortage is visible in lower staffing and larger caseloads, said Tim Cleveland, Scott County’s community corrections director. For example, he said, the probation officer who monitors domestic abuse offenders is juggling about 80 cases at a given time.
Under the 1973 Community Corrections Act (CCA), Minnesota counties can opt to deliver correctional services for all offenders, rather than relying on the state Department of Corrections to do it for them. There’s also a hybrid option — which Scott County used until 2006 — that left supervision of adult felony and gross misdemeanor offenders to the state.
When Scott County made the transition to supervising everyone, some state money to support that never materialized. The discrepancy came to light when Sherburne County, weighing possible participation in the program, started researching funding allocations.
By comparing Scott to similar CCA counties, county officials calculated that they’ve been missing out on between $80,000 and $150,000 annually.
Funding is determined by a formula that’s based, in part, on population. General CCA funding is the largest chunk, and it is supplemented by smaller, specialized grant funds — money designated for sex offender supervision, for example.
“It’s how those [grant funds] were recognized — or more accurately, how those weren’t recognized — when [Scott County] transitioned that created this gap,” said Ryan Erdmann, executive director at the Minnesota Association of Community Corrections Act Counties.
The biggest missing piece for Scott County is the grant funding for adult felony supervision. Dakota and Anoka counties got about $70,000 and $80,000 in 2014, respectively. Hennepin and Ramsey counties together got more than $400,000. Scott, meanwhile, got nothing last year — or any of the years before that.
Some of the confusion arose because counties have joined the community corrections program sporadically in recent years, county officials said. When Scott County switched to CCA, it had been more than a decade since a new county had joined up. Now, another decade later, Sherburne County is seeking to become the 33rd CCA county in Minnesota.
A push for simplification
Scott County’s funding disparity came to light when Sherburne County officials started looking into how CCA money is allocated.
“It just seems like when the Community Corrections Act was first enacted back in the 70s, there were more incentives for counties to come under [it],” Cleveland said. “But over time, because of the limited dollars, there’s just not as much incentive to go community corrections. And so that’s certainly something Sherburne County had to look at.”
Meanwhile, the statewide association of CCA counties is working on legislation to create a single funding mechanism.
State funding has remained essentially flat over the last decade, Erdmann said, so the burden has increasingly shifted to the counties. And the system itself, with its multiple pools of money and various ways for counties to offer services, is more complex than its counterparts in other states.
“Part of what we’re talking about is refining — because there’s these multiple pots, because it’s so hard for me to explain the nature of all these different pots of money — one of the things we’ve been pushing is simplification as well,” he said. “Saying, you know what? Maybe we’re not doing this right.”