Community groups, including the Minnesota Justice Research Center and the African-American Leadership Forum, announced the formation of the Justice for All Coalition (JFA) on Monday as an effort to reimagine public safety through legislation.
Although there is bipartisan consensus on the need for hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to improve public safety at the local and state levels, the debate over how to spend that money continues with just over a month left in the legislative session.
With 15 legislative priorities on their list this year and with big sweeping bills emerging, this new coalition hopes to gain more momentum and get some proposals, such as banning no-knock warrants and passing bail reform.
alliance and their priorities
The JFA Coalition is made up of more than 15 progressive organizations and community leaders including former state representative Carlos Mariani, St. Thomas law professor Mark Osler, the Urban League of the Twin Cities and the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, among others.
The group’s list of legislative priorities includes some of the proposals that have been working their way through the legislature, such as clemency reform, a crime victim service fund that would offer grants to victims, eliminating juvenile lives without parole, and automatic expungement.
“This coalition knows Minnesotans are done reacting to political fearmongering about public safety, and they are ready to embrace the proven methods of public safety that keep us safe while emphasizing racial justice, civil liberties, and rebuilding lives,” Mariani said. Among the proposals on their list of targets, restoring voting rights for offenders on supervised release, passed earlier in this legislative session — which coalition members say gives them hope that others on their list can be passed.
Discuss public safety financing
house file 25, Called the Public Safety Innovations Package and authored by DFB representative Cedric Fraser, it is a priority of the JFA Alliance. The $315 million bill will fund violent crime reduction programs, community violence prevention, and more efforts and grants to law enforcement agencies.
The bill is slightly smaller and less focused on savings than the package from Governor Tim Walz, which is $550 million for local governments. The money will be divided based on city and county populations, and local officials will be able to spend the money however they see fit — whether it’s to hire more police or buy a new fire truck, for example.
Officials representing several local entities, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, incoming Brooklyn Park Mayor Hollis Winston, and incoming Hennepin County Sheriff Dawanna Witt, held a press conference late last week praising the governor for his strong public safety spending proposal and calling on lawmakers in both houses. . To pass it on and get it to Walz’s office.
“Our communities see the devastating effects of violent crime every day. We are making progress in moving the needle, but we must do more,” Winston said. “This funding will allow cities the flexibility to direct money where the need is greatest and use practices we already know work. We have to redouble our commitment to keeping people safe.”
DFB lawmakers in both the lower house and upper house have been lukewarm about the proposal, however, as they have been promoting spending proposals that are more specific in how the money is used and by whom.
Amber Jones, managing director for policy impact at the African American Leadership Forum, said she doesn’t think the proposals are mutually exclusive but solve different parts of the same problem: a lack of resources to sustain meaningful public safety work at the local level. level. She said any proposal that would fund government agencies for public safety efforts should fund community organizations in their efforts on the ground.
“As we have seen, there has been real pressure on governments and they have been unable to scale, particularly with police departments to meet needs,” she said. “We’ve seen community organizations come in and fill those needs with limited resources, and so I think it’s important to see that we need everyone at the table and that there is a way to be able to reconcile that in the legislature.”
On the other side of the aisle, Republicans have vetoed a sweeping public safety package for the DFL caucus. During a news conference Friday, Senator Warren Leamer, the Senate’s public safety leader, criticized policy parts of the package for being too lenient on violent offenders and not doing enough to prepare for the expected increase in criminal activity as the weather warms.
“The new law gives criminals what I would call getting out of jail on a free card,” Lemmer said. “This bill isn’t hard on crime – it goes in the opposite direction, it’s a soft crime and it doesn’t treat violent offenders with any harsher penalties or longer sentences.”