Under a controversial new program, 158 Minnesota prisoners might be eligible for release after serving just half their time, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The program, which started this year for a two-year test run, allows the conditional release of nonviolent drug offenders who have completed drug treatment and meet a host of other criteria. The offenders’ crimes must be rooted in their drug addictions, not motivated by greed or gang involvement.
The first prisoners wouldn’t be eligible for discharge until early next year; the program has received attention and concern from attorneys, lawmakers, and the governor. Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian admits it puts her in a “difficult situation.” She says: “Public safety has always been the standard that we look at, and I sure don’t want to make a mistake.” Even before the program’s requirements were finalized, more than 400 of the state’s 8,700 inmates expressed interest. So far, only 158 appear to qualify, and some of those might be rejected after further review. Some prosecutors have expressed misgivings about the program.