Principles of less eligibility: The human cost of prison labor PART II

If you were to turn over a chair in a Minnesota public library, like at the Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault, you might find a tag noting the chair was manufactured by MINNCOR, a quasi public-private business operation within the state’s Department of Corrections (DOC). MINNCOR products are made by Minnesota inmates who make furniture for everything from public libraries to student dormitories. They also weld docks for Minnesota lakes and pack balloons destined for festive events. Additionally, minimum security work crews organized through the DOC – separate from MINNCOR’s operations – build low-income homes in greater Minnesota and have even assembled a sports facility dome on the University of Minnesota campus. The work of these inmates is all around us, yet hidden in plain sight. Continue Reading

Principles of less eligibility: The human cost of prison labor PART I

Jesse, an inmate whose name has been changed for his safety, began his incarceration in 2006 initially working as a baker for 25 cents an hour in St. Cloud. He later got a job pressing license plates for 50 cents an hour. During yet another job in prison folding and packaging balloons, Jesse noticed the balloons were being transported and sold by Anagram. While getting paid pennies on the dollar, his labor was being exploited for corporate profit. Continue Reading

Three years after ‘Ban the Box,’ Minnesota ex-offenders find mixed prospects upon re-entry

With a first degree possession of a firearm and a second degree possession of a controlled substance on his record, Jason Sole had a tough time finding meaningful work when he got out of prison. “[Employers] didn’t see my value, they only saw me as a deficit,” said Sole. His first job out of prison was working at a Holiday Inn for $10 an hour.  Sole pointed out that employers know there are a limited amount of jobs, so when they see you’re an ex-offender, they take advantage of it. “The things they make you do because you’re an ex-offender is appalling,” adding, “They just wanted me to be a worker, they weren’t trying to make me a boss.”

Sole didn’t want anybody to be able to oppress him so he figured out how to be his own boss. Continue Reading

Community Voices: Student video shows personal and political toll of ex-offender disenfranchisement

In this video, created by South High VOICES students Keeler Gonzalez, Lindsey Morris and Marie Berlovitz, local voting rights advocates discuss how ex-offender disenfranchisement makes it more difficult for felons to rehabilitate and reintegrate into community, and how the practice also disproportionately affects people of color. Continue Reading

equity agenda

Building a bridge for prison justice: Conversation with Salvador Miranda and Alisha Volante [AUDIO]

In this podcast, Filiberto Nolasco Gomez sat down with two key organizers with Voices for Racial Justice to talk about an innovative partnership with BRIDGE, a movement led by incarcerated individuals organizing within Minnesota’s prison system to share the stories of incarceration, to develop solutions addressing mass incarceration and re-entry, and to build a stronger bridge from prison to the community. Continue Reading

Women Leading Change: Profile of Barbara Arnwine

Barbara Arnwine has played a key role in advancing justice in the arena of civil rights. Arnwine has served as the President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for over 26 years. Within this leadership role, her stance has been strong and her commitment has been unwavering to secure through rule of law, equal justice under the law. One such example is her determination to protect one of our most fundamental rights— voting. She has waged war against the direct assault of democracy as evidenced by laws and policies which restrict access to the ballot box. Continue Reading