Mn., Prisons Full, To Debate Tougher Sentencing


When the Minnesota legislature adjourned this year, key lawmakers said state residents were not so safe as they could be, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Lawmakers failed to crack down on sex offenders and methamphetamine makers. Starting Tuesday, they will again try to increase penalties for those offenders. Those prison-filling measures come against a backdrop of prisons filled to capacity. The state corrections system is double-bunking, renting prison space from counties, contracting with a private prison, and still anticipating a bed shortage.

Methamphetamine is at the root of a large part of the prison crunch. The highly addictive drug has spread across the state, filling county jails and state prisons with offenders. In 2001, the number of meth-related offenders in prison was 139. By the start of 2004, there were 869 – more than a 500-percent increase. Many lawmakers also began concluding penalties for sex offenders were neither harsh or smart enough. As a result, Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed the death penalty for the worst offenders. Lawmakers strongly rejected that proposal, and it will likely not return in 2005. Legislators proposed toughening sex-offender penalties to include life in prison without release for the worst sex criminals. In 2005, legislators will see a proposal from Pawlenty to redo the sex-offender sentencing.


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