Judiciary and public safety budget prioritizes funding for corrections officers and criminal sexual conduct reform

The Minnesota Senate is set to approve this year’s Judiciary and Public Safety budget in the upcoming special session. ‘Protection of the people’ is one of the first statements in Minnesota’s constitution and the focus of the 2019 Judiciary budget.

“This year, we prioritized a balanced budget that funds the core functions of government,” said Senator Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee. “We have successfully funded our courts, prisons, and law enforcement and taken additional steps to reform broken programs for victims who are often forgotten.”

Funding for new corrections officers

After physical attacks over the last year that resulted in injury and even death of prison personnel, this budget funds $10.3 million towards recruitment of new corrections officers. By the end of 2021, corrections facilities around the state will have sixty-seven new guards and a sufficient base pay structure for newer officers.

“Facilities around the state are struggling to recruit new guards,” said Senator Limmer. “As a former corrections officer, I understand the risks and tensions of this job. Our officers work tirelessly to protect our communities, putting their lives on the line. It is imperative that we sufficiently compensate their commitment to the safety of our prisons and our public.”

Criminal Sexual Conduct Reform

The agreement establishes a Sexual Assault Task Force uniting victim advocacy groups, law enforcement, prosecutors, and other stakeholders to comprehensively review the law and develop reform. Part of this project will be to update and clarify laws so police agencies and prosecutors have the tools they need to seek justice for victims. They will evaluate proposed changes and report their recommendations to the legislature.

“The task force will utilize the experiences of a diverse group of stakeholders to bring forward reforms so that victims may better pursue justice for crimes committed against them,” said Senator Limmer. “We are taking this issue very seriously, recognizing breakdowns in the system and hoping this will lead to more positive outcomes in the future.”

Several other important policies regarding sex assaults and penalties for sex crimes are included in this bill.  These include: increasing penalties for child pornographers who are repeat offenders or victimize very young children, adding enhanced protection for minors from being recorded in locker rooms and other private areas when it is done by adults with predatory intentions, protecting children from exploitation by including a so-called “cooling off” period so that teachers and coaches may not enter a relationship with a recent student old enough to consent but not yet 18, clarifying that persons detained in police custody cannot consent to sexual relations with law enforcement officers, funding the repealer of the antiquated marital rape exception, improving the fifth degree criminal sexual conduct crime so that all private parts of the body are treated the same way, and improving how law enforcement receives and responds to sexual assault cases so that victims are better heard and not re-victimized by the system.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force

In response to the increased awareness of the disproportionate numbers of indigenous women targeted by violent crimes, a new task force will be assembled by the Department of Public Safety and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. The task force will report recommendations to the legislature to end violence against Indigenous women. They will evaluate the following:

  • The systemic cause for the violence indigenous women and girls experience
  • Appropriate methods of collecting data to create a full-scale understanding of the issue
  • Improved policies of government systems that interact with the communities of indigenous women
  • Procedures to help the communities heal from and overcome these tragedies

“When we heard this bill in our committee, the stories of those who have endured these heinous crimes were overwhelming,” said Senator Limmer. “We owe it to the families and the victims to end this cycle of violence.”

Members of the task force will include two members of the Senate, two members of the House of Representatives, two law enforcement officers, an attorney, a coroner, a member from each of the eleven recognized tribal governments, and at least four representatives from organizations that provide services to those affected by violent crimes.