[COMMUNITY VOICES] Non-criminal ‘technical violations’ are increasing Minnesota’s prison population

When it comes to incarceration rates, Minnesota stands out as one of the few states who is experiencing an increase in their prison population despite prison overcrowding and crime at a 50-year low. While there are multiple factors for this, a significant part of this increase is due to the incarceration of formerly released individuals for non-criminal “technical violations” of parole. According to the Department of Correction in 2017 alone, 3,391 people were returned to prison, yet 88 percent – or nearly 3,000 of those admissions – were a return without a new sentence, that is, for technical violations. A technical violation is a petty violation of supervised or conditional release (colloquially known as “parole”) which are not in themselves a misdemeanor or felony. For example, people can be violated for failure to obtain or maintain housing or employment, being late for or missing an appointment, going on social media, driving a vehicle and many other non-crimes. Continue Reading

Restoring an echo of humanity for inmates through a different kind of public health

Erin Sharkey is preparing for a nature writing course she will offer at the Faribault Correctional Facility, a medium security prison. “It would be great to be able to have people spend time in nature when they are thinking and writing about nature,” said Sharkey. As a local artist, writer and instructor at the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop, Sharkey would like to bring in sensory-rich objects, such as leaves, as a writing prompt for the students. But, she is not allowed to take a leaf inside the prison so she brings pictures of leaves. The everyday struggle to maintain one’s humanity inside Minnesota prisons remains largely out of sight. Continue Reading

Best of Neighborhood News 9/12: ‘Disapproved Books:’ New Weisman exhibit highlights censorship in prison system

A new exhibit at the Weisman art museum, “The Section of Disapproved Books,” allows guests to look at and flip through over 400 books banned by prisons across the country. The library contains several popular covers, highlighting the subjective nature of prison book banning and encouraging visitors to think critically about the use of censorship in the prison system. “The goal would be to affect these regulations,” said creator Daniel McCarthy Clifford. “[Banning these books] is a pretty arbitrary process, and I think bringing awareness to it could affect some policy change.”

Find out more at MN Daily. Franklin/Hiawatha Native homeless encampment faces City-mandated removal by end of September

In the Franklin/Hiawatha corridor, many homeless Native individuals have formed a small community encampment, sleeping in tents and helping each other to survive the harshness of homeless living conditions, as well as receiving regular assistance from volunteers. Continue Reading